Photo courtesy of Halvor Tweto

The Tillamook Head Trail is a fantastic choice for those interested in a generous sample of what makes the Northern Oregon Coast such a unique destination.  The trail runs between the town of Seaside and Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach, so you have the opportunity to hike one way once you’ve set a shuttle.  This report is written for the there-and-back hike starting at Indian Beach.  Completing the trail as a there-and-back trip does take some time and energy, especially as the elevation gain will be doubled on the return.  On the other hand, the scenery is incredible and worth a second look on your return trip.

Starting from the Indian Beach parking lot, hike north on a gravel road for 1.5 miles until you reach Hiker’s Camp.  Three shelters offer four bunks each on a first-come, first-served basis, and you may camp with a tent if the shelters are full.  A short walk west takes you past an old military bunker before leading you to views of Terrible Tilly, the battered, besieged and occasionally submerged lighthouse on Tillamook Rock.  Visit for a quick, remarkable history of this lonely lighthouse.

To continue to the Seaside Trailhead, return to Hiker’s Camp and continue north on the Tillamook Head Trail.  The wide gravel trail gives way to a narrow, boggy and frequently log-jammed path for the next 4 miles. The trail condition is rough enough to slow your pace at times, whether by obstructions or bogs, so plan accordingly. Giant Sitka spruce and hemlock lie around like storm wreckage, serving as eerie reminders of the gale force winds that hit the headlands during soggy winters.

Grand views extend out over the ocean from the small clearings, and the trail keeps very close to the cliff for much of the way.  As you walk south toward Indian Beach on the return, ponder the views and conditions experienced by William Clark, Sacajawea and other members of the Corps of Discovery as they walked the very same trail toward Cannon Beach in hope of purchasing whale blubber.
Note that overnight parking is prohibited in Ecola State Park. Hikers staying overnight on the trail will need to arrange for transportation to the trailhead from outside of the park.