Despite its name, Smelt Sands State Park (also known as Smelt Sands State Recreation Area) has a distinct lack of sand. The main attractions are actually the tide pools that are teeming with life, access to the Yachats 804 Trail, and the picturesque shoreline. In the early 1970s the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department acquired the park, and two decades later the public was granted access to the Yachats 804 Trail that branches off from Smelt Sands. It is a quick hike, and there are numerous benches where you can sit and enjoy the view. In the winter you might catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales or a spectacular storm rolling in from across the water.
Smelt Sands is mainly comprised of rock formations that have achieved their current shapes as a result of millennia of wave erosion. Basalt, siltstone, and sandstone make up the majority of the boulders, and geologists hypothesize that the sandstone Yaquina Formation at the northernmost point of the Yachats 804 Trail formed 25 million years ago. In addition to its unique geology, the park also has an interesting social history. Centuries ago Native Americans walked across this beach and along what is now the Yachats 804 Trail. Later on, settlers used it as part of a long road which allowed them to move back and forth between various farm settlements. In the 1990s the 804 Trail South was constructed, branching off from the southern end of the park.
If you are visiting from out of town, Tillicum Beach Campground is an excellent place to get some sleep before continuing your adventure. You will not want to miss Yachats State Park (located is less than a mile south of Smelt Sands) or Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site (an additional half mile to the south).
Smelt Sands State Park is part of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Areas. This means that there are specific prohibitions against fishing and the harvesting of fish, invertebrates, and seaweed. Check here for specific clarifications on regulations, exemptions, and a detailed representation of the area's boundaries.