Oregon Coast Trail

The Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) is a long-distance hiking route along the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of Oregon in the United States. It follows the coast of Oregon from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border south of Brookings.[1]

Oregon Coast Trail
The Oregon Coast Trail at Floras Lake, looking north to the BLM's New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)
Length425 mi (684 km)
LocationPacific Ocean coast of Oregon, United States
TrailheadsMouth of the Columbia River/California border
Hiking details
Trail difficultyEasy to moderate

The trail was envisioned in 1959 by Samuel N. Dicken, a University of Oregon geography professor, approved in 1971 by the Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council and developed and managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as part of the state park system of Oregon.[1] The official coastal guide gives a length of 382 miles (615 km). About 39 percent of the route is on the beach, 41 percent is on paved road, and 20 percent is on trail and dirt roads. Private ferries can however be arranged at some estuaries to shortcut road segments. Walked in its entirety, linking each trail/beach section, the distance is approximately 425 miles.

A chief feature of the trail are the public beaches created in 1967 via the Oregon Beach Bill, which formalized the public nature of the coastal beaches since the first such law was passed in 1913.[2] Many of the locations, particularly on the southern portion, are remote and isolated. The Oregon coast is bordered by a temperate rainforest,[3] much of which is now second or third growth.

The difficulty of the trail ranges from easy to moderate, with elevation changes of up to a few hundred feet.[4]


Oregon Coast Trail crossing over a headland in Samuel H. Boardman State Park

The northern trailhead is at the base of the south jetty of the Columbia River, approximately 4 miles (6 km) north of the campground of Fort Stevens State Park and about 13 miles (21 km) from the city of Astoria. The trail runs north-south along the entire Oregon Coast, following the shore as closely as practical. For many portions of the route, it is beach walking, mostly on sand. In populated areas it often follows the nearest street to the shore. Many parts of the trail leave the beach and take an inland path, usually where land formations make the shoreline impassable, such as at Cape Kiwanda. Some of the rocky headlands are passable on foot at beach level only at low tide. Other headlands are traversed by state park or forest service trails well above the sea. In many other places, the road is the only feasible route, mostly U.S. Route 101. The southern terminus of the trail is the unmarked Oregon/California border on a stretch of beach about 5 miles (8 km) south of Brookings, and about half a mile south of the Winchuck River.

Besides headlands, there are numerous rivers and creeks which must be crossed. Most creeks are forded by wading, although sometimes the water can be waist deep even at low tide. At high tide, some are hazardous or impossible to cross and require a boat or a detour to a bridge. Rainfall during winter and early spring decreases the number of streams which are safely fordable.

Trail-walking informationEdit

The Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) is a described route and not a continuous trail. Thirty-nine percent of the route is on beaches. Forty-one percent, or more than 150 miles (240 km) of the route is on pavement. Twenty percent follows trails. If walked in its entirety (without taking ferries), the total distance is approximately 425 miles. The OCT is signed throughout its length, but in some places signage is not reliable. However it is difficult to become lost since the route is never more than a few miles from a paved road. In 2009, the State of Oregon posted a set of downloadable maps with brief route descriptions.

A dedicated guidebook for the OCT was published in 2015, called Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail. Written by Connie Soper, the book details 40 consecutive day hikes, and also includes maps and logistical information for the entire Oregon Coast Trail, such as tidal considerations and arranging for boat rides.[5] The trail is open to hikers, and in some places, to bicycles, and equestrians (but not the entire route). As portions of the route lead around headlands or cross river mouths that are only passable at low tide, carrying a current tide table and relevant topographic information can be extremely helpful. Sometimes a hiker must choose between waiting for a lower tide or walking inland to avoid high water.

Seasonal recreation restrictions are in place from March 15 through September 15 in some locations to protect shorebird nesting. These restrictions include complete prohibition of dogs, camping, non-motorized vehicles (including bicycles and fat bikes), motorized vehicles, and kites. Hikers and equestrians must also stay on the wet sand. Shorebird areas are clearly marked on the beach with yellow signs.[6]

Many state campgrounds have areas dedicated for hikers and bicyclists at reduced prices (compared to vehicles). Beach camping is allowed where out of sight of residences, not adjacent to state parks, and not near snowy plover during nesting season.[7] This limits camping on some areas of the trail to developed campgrounds, particularly along the northern beaches. Oregon Parks Forever funded the creation and installation of nine Hiker/Biker pods for tent campers in state parks along the coast: They are located in hiker/biker camps at Fort Stevens, Devil’s Lake, Cape Blanco, Harris Beach, Cape Lookout, Bullards Beach, Nehalem Bay, Beverly Beach, Honeyman, and Sunset Bay.[8] The State of Oregon has stated its intention to create more primitive and free camping areas.

Vehicles are allowed on a few beaches. Dune buggies are used extensively in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a 40-mile (64 km) stretch of beach from Florence to Coos Bay.

Several portions of the trail are pristine and secluded, such as the segment from Bandon to Port Orford, where several days of relative solitude and free camping exist.

Prevailing winds are from the northwest which makes the trail easier to hike from north to south. Route descriptions are also written assuming a north to south direction of travel.

Cities and towns of various sizes are located along Highway 101 every 20 to 25 miles (32 to 40 km) permitting re-provisioning on a regular basis. Public transportation is extremely limited along the coast.

Points of interestEdit

The sand beach at Oswald West State Park's Smuggler Cove seen from the Oregon Coast Trail
Headlands visible from Oregon Coast Trail north of Cape Falcon within Oswald West State Park
Umpqua River lighthouse
Cape Blanco looking south towards Port Orford Heads State Park, Humbug Mountain in the background, Pinnacle Rock in the frontground.

Places found along the OCT from north to south.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Oregon Coast Trail Maps". Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  2. ^ Greg Johnston (June 19, 2003). "The Oregon shore is blessed with beauty". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  3. ^ "The Oregon Coast". Oregon Travel Regions. Go Northwest. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  4. ^ Nancy Prichard (May 9, 2001). "Oregon Coast Trail". Great Outdoors. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  5. ^ Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail, by Connie Soper
  6. ^ "Oregon Parks and Recreation : Western Snowy Plover : Parks, Campgrounds, Beaches : State of Oregon". www.oregon.gov. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  7. ^ "Oregon Coast Trail: 8. Bandon to Humbug Mountain State Park" (PDF). State of Oregon, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-19. Beach camping is restricted within city limits, state park boundaries, and near snowy plover habitat areas (avoid roped and signed areas during nesting). Fires are not allowed upwind or near driftwood piles.
  8. ^ "Three more hike/Bike pods funded along the Oregon Coast". 16 September 2020.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 44°12′N 124°00′W / 44.2°N 124.0°W / 44.2; -124.0