If long walks on the beach are your thing, exploring the Oregon Coast Trail will soon be your new favorite pastime.

Similar to the Pacific Crest Trail, the coast trail — with views of sea stacks and rocky headlands and other coastal wonders —  is a series of connected walking routes connecting Oregon’s North, Central and South coasts. About half is on sandy beach; the rest winds through forested areas, state parks and through towns, making it easy to travel without a tent and backpacking equipment.

While stretches of the soon-to-be 382-mile trail remain unfinished, it’s best to tackle by delightful day hikes. For a complete guide on the entire trail, check out “Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail: 40 Day Hikes from the Columbia River to the California Border,” by Connie Soper.

Here are five inspiring and accessible day hikes on the Oregon Coast Trail to try this summer:

  1. Arch Cape to Oswald West State Park on the North Coast, 4.1 miles

Just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach, the trail here is a world away from the hustle and bustle of that idyllic coastal town. Day hikers will cross a foot suspension bridge across Arch Cape Creek on their way south, traversing the two major scenic headlands, Cape Falcon and Neakahnie Mountain. Here and elsewhere along the trail it’s important to check the tide tables at state park offices and online before venturing out.

  1. Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint to Oceanside Beach State Wayside on the North Coast, 2.9 miles

Lovers of birds, lighthouses and quirky features like Oregon’s uniquely shaped Octopus Tree will be in heaven here. This stunning stretch of coastline is home to one of the most populous bird colonies on the continent, and hikers will likely be treated to the sight of soaring bald eagles and peregrine falcons as well as seals, sea lions and migrating whales.

  1. Yachats to Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint on the Central Coast, 3.8 miles

This out-of-the-way spot is full of surprises, with crystalline waterways like Gwynn, Creek, Cummins and Bob creeks; clifftop benches perfect for a picnic; and a series of stairs that lead to tidepools and agates on sandy beaches during low tide. Florence and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are less than an hour south.

  1. Sunset Bay State Park to Cape Arago State Park on the South Coast, 2.3 miles

A perfect side trip from the campgrounds at the state park, this piece of the Oregon Coast Trail comes with alluring views of Gregory Point, the small island offshore that houses the Cape Arago Lighthouse. The national landmark operated from 1934 to 2006 and used to include two other lighthouses, all connected to the mainland by a bridge. Today the complex is not open to the public but still remains a rare treat to glimpse.

  1. Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint to Bandon State Natural Area on the South Coast, 2.7 miles

Hiking this part of the trail is reason alone to visit Oregon’s wild and rugged south coast, but here you can reward yourself back in town afterward with fish and chips and chowder at Bandon Fish Market, and a handmade ice cream at Face Rock Creamery, both just off the trail. That may, in fact, be one of the best parts of the Oregon Coast Trail: You’re never too far away from coastal treats.

Story by Jen Anderson
Photo by Justin Bailie (pictured is Cape Arago)