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Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
19,137.00 ft (5,832.96 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
424.00 mi (682.36 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Oregon Coast Trail traces the entirety of what is arguably the most scenic coastline in the United States. The opportunities for adventure on the OCT are substantial, and there is a little something for everyone. Hikers will enjoy landscapes of rugged off-shore sea stacks crowned with Sitka spruce, delve into thick old-growth forests with dense understories of ferns and salal, and watch sea birds along the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge; patient observers can search for sea lions and seals, gray and humpback whales, and even vast herds of elk; history buffs can tour lighthouses that are rich with stories and perched on big vistas; and through the entire route travelers will encounter Oregon's charming coastal communities that are each filled with unique character. The progressive Oregon Beach Bill, enacted with major support from Governor Tom McCall in 1967, declares the entire coastline from the Columbia River to the border of California to be a public easement for recreational use. This beautiful, unmatched coastline continues to be preserved for the enjoyment of all. The most intimate way to experience what this coast has to offer is on foot, and the OCT allows hikers of all ages and abilities to become more acquainted with this spectacular region.

Totaling approximately 425 miles, this trail is unique because hikers have several options in terms of how to complete individual segments. A significant portion of the route is on pavement. Of the 425 miles, a total of 164 miles follows roadways, and the majority of that mileage is along the shoulder of U.S. Highway 101. There are other options for modes of transportation: Public buses are available through all counties, there are a few ferry options across some of the major bays and rivers, and hikers can also take private taxis. There is also the possibility of section-hiking the trail using a vehicle shuttle and avoiding the busy roadway sections altogether. The options for transportation in designated areas are detailed in the individual section publications. 

Most visitors experience the OCT in small day trip segments, and there are plenty of wonderful overnight possibilities as well. That said, it is certainly possible to complete the OCT in one go, and there are a few different options for overnight stays. There are many well-developed and well-maintained state park and national forest campgrounds that are near the trail, and most offer hiker/biker camps (camping for around $8 per night). Another option is to take the comparably luxurious choice and stay in hotels and vacation rentals each night. Or, perhaps, a combination of the two. Undeveloped camping right on the beach is also permitted on some, but not all, of the route's beaches.

The Pacific Northwest sees as much as 200 inches of rain annually on some areas of the Oregon coast. The driest months, and therefore the best time to hike, are mid-June to mid-September. This is a narrow window in which to hike the trail, but it is the most highly recommended time. The rest of the year can be quite wet, with substantial storms in the fall and winter. The trail, however, is doable year round. Seasonal streams must also be considered because there are a significant number of water crossings. There are also several points that can only be rounded at low tide, which is most efficiently accomplished in the summer to early fall given the ocean's temperature and the risk for exposure in the colder months. The tide does change significantly in height with winter storms and ocean swells. Some bay inlets and rivers may be forded in the warmer and drier months. Detailed information can be found in each section's guide.

The OCT is an ongoing project that is being continuously improved by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. In addition to the local trail groups, cities, and counties that have worked to improve the trail, the National Coast Trail Association has been a significant advocate for the completion of the OCT. The association dreams of one long and continuous trail along the coastline between the northern and southern borders of the United States totaling about 10,000 miles. While the routes recommended on Outdoor Project are researched through actual reconnaissance, other route options exist at every junction. At the time of this publication, trail marking was substantial through the northernmost five sections with sparse or nonexistent marking through the southernmost five sections. ORPD is initiating additional efforts to install needed trail markers, but very few guides and resources exist. The detailed narratives and photos you find here on Outdoor Project are the most comprehensive and readily available online resources. Helpful information can also be found on the Coast Trails site.

Risks of hiking road sections 

Although officially designated as a trail over 40 years ago, the OCT is an ongoing project and not yet a single continuous hiking trail. Gaps in the trail, usually caused by rivers, bays, or rocky headlands, require hikers to walk along busy roads (often U.S. Highway 101) that are not designed for pedestrian use. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and other public and nonprofit agencies, including local cities and counties along the Oregon coast, are working to eliminate these breaks by establishing trails to connect trail segments and beaches. 

In 2016, the Oregon legislature enacted legislation requiring OPRD to complete an action plan that will identify steps needed to complete the trail. This planning effort will identify key stakeholders and document the current status of trail completion, evaluate and assess alternatives for completing trail segments, and seek funding to complete new trail sections. 

Until the trail is completed, OCT hikers will have to decide whether they choose to walk along the shoulder of the highway that is, in fact, currently an official part of the trail. It is important for OCT hikers to understand the risks of walking along the highway portions of the OCT. The most prevalent dangers are being hit by a vehicle or being struck by debris kicked up by or flying out of a passing vehicle. In addition, some highway sections along the Oregon Coast Trail are longer and more difficult than others. These highway sections are detailed in each section's guide. 

Public safety is of the highest concern at Outdoor Project, and we do not condone walking along roads without a designated pedestrian path. We support utilizing other modes of transportation to connect the trail and beach sections such as public transportation, private shuttle or taxi, biking, ferry, or completing the Oregon Coast Trail in hiking sections to avoid the highway altogether. Two great resources for finding alternative transportation are Google Transit (Google.com/transit), Visit The Oregon Coast (visittheoregoncoast.com/transportation/), and an internet search for taxis or other transportation alternatives in the town nearest to the trail break. There are also ferry services available to cross the Nehalem River, Tillamook Bay and the Umpqua River, and these will greatly reduce the amount of highway miles one must walk. Note that ferry boats do run on a regular schedule and must be reserved in advance. More information on each of these ferries is found in Section 2 and Section 6. 

This guide provides information needed for hikers who do choose to walk the trail in its entirety, including those portions along the highway. We urge those hikers to exercise caution to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike on the OCT.

Tips for hiking the Oregon Coast Trail 

The Oregon Coast Trail offers hikers an opportunity to experience the beauty of Oregon’s coastal landscapes and ecosystems in an intimate and continuous way, and it passes through fragile environments. Your awareness of a few additional items can enrich your overall experience on the OCT and help minimize your impact on delicate environments along the way.

  • Before departing on your hike, learn the Leave No Trace Seven Principles so that you can practice them while you are out on the trail. The more that people incorporate Leave No Trace into their decisions and habits, the better the outdoor experience will be for everyone.
  • Learn about Oregon’s five unique marine reserves. Marine reserves are areas that have been set aside for study, research, and conservation; it is illegal to remove any marine life from a marine reserve, and they are also protected from any development. Marine protected areas, which are often adjacent to reserves, allow some fishing and development. Marine reserves are wonderful areas to observe wildlife and take in Oregon’s beautiful coastal scenery. Fortunately, Oregon’s marine reserves couldn’t be more accessible than when hiking the OCT. From north to south they include:
  • The islands and sea stacks along the coast are protected as part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. They provide crucial nesting habitat for seabirds and pupping/resting sites for seals and sea lions. All seabirds and marine mammals are protected by federal law and are sensitive to human disturbance. For this reason, all islands and sea stacks are closed to public access year round.
  • Portions of the trail meet the ocean's waterline and may only be passable at low tide. Excercise caution and safe judgement; wait for appropriate tidal conditions in these areas, and always watch for sneaker waves. 
  • Pay special attention to areas signed and posted as snowy plover habitat. A handful of Oregon’s beaches and estuaries provides critical habitat for the western snowy plover, a species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed as threatened in 1993. The breeding season for the western snowy plover is from March 15 to September 15, and during this time it is imperative to avoid potential nesting locations in dry sand beach areas. Dogs, kites, bikes, and vehicles are all prohibited from March 15 to September 15, and walking is only allowed on hard-packed wet sand. Please do your part to help this threatened species survive by complying with posted restrictions and completely avoiding closed areas. There are designated snowy plover areas from Fort Stevens to Floras Lake, and hikers should be aware of their locations. To learn more, be sure to check out these snowy plover resources:
  • The Oregon coast is generally a very dog friendly location, and dogs are allowed on most beaches, state parks (when on a leash) and other coastal public lands. However, there are specific times and locations when dogs are not permitted in certain areas, such as beaches and estuaries identified as snowy plover habitat during nesting season. Please pay attention to posted signage and respect times and areas where dogs are prohibited. 
  • For those interested in hiking the OCT in sections, or even just accessing the trail for day hikes, take note that recreation fees and passes are required at several federal recreation sites. If you will be parking at one of the state or federal fee area recreation sites, make sure to pick up the applicable recreation pass such as an Oregon Coast Pacific Passport.

Face Rock at sunset. Photo by Jesse Hazelton.

Section 1: Fort Stevens State Park to Oswald West State Park

Starting at the Columbia River in Fort Stevens State Park and ending in the small community of Arch Cape, this segment of trail passes by one shipwreck, one lighthouse, two of the most visited cities on the coast (Seaside and Cannon Beach), and it requires some coordination with the tide. Hikers will also find the only backcountry hut available on the OCT: The Tillamook Head hiker camp boasts three rudimentary Adirondack shelters as well as a dry wood shed for welcome campfires!

Section 2: Oswald West State Park to Tillamook River Bridge

This section passes through one of the coast's largest state parks (Oswald West) and leads to its highest point at Neahkahnie Mountain (1,600 feet). Hikers will also encounter the first of the OCT's ferry opportunities in this section; riding across Nehalem and Tillamook Bays prevents the risk affiliated with substantial roadway travel.

Section 3: Tillamook River Bridge to Bob Straub State Park

Section 3 proceeds along the Three Capes Scenic Route and avoids Highway 101 altogether. Some of Oregon's most scenic coastline can be seen here. The route leads from Cape Meares and its tiny lighthouse over the mighty Cape Lookout, and it ends near the fragile and diverse geology of Cape Kiwanda. Hikers may also choose to ford the potentially difficult crossing of Sand Lake. Many of the smaller coastal communities in this section also display their charm.

Section 4: Pacific City to Otter Rock

This section sees some of the longest stretches of roadway travel, which total about 25 miles. Additionally, Section 4 leads through a very populated segment of the coast. After rounding Siletz Bay on Highway 101, the beach through Neskowin gives some reprieve before following the highway over Cascade Head, through the beaches of Lincoln City, and continuing back to the highway for the majority of the journey to Otter Rock. Hikers will encounter frequent viewpoints and overlooks that are ideal viewpoints for spotting whales during their migrations.

Section 5: Otter Rock to Heceta Head

From Newport all the way south to Heceta Head Lighthouse, this longer 54-mile section has about 28 miles of sandy beach walking along with a periodic bridge walk over major bays and inlets. The ancient shield volcano known as Cape Perpetua juts 800 feet above the ocean, affording panoramic views from its historic stone shelter. The segment passes by two lighthouses in Newport and ends at one of the most iconic lighthouses on the coast, Heceta Head.

Section 6: Heceta Head to North Bend

The tunnel just south of Heceta Head Lighthouse may just be the most dangerous obstacle for hikers of the OCT. With no shoulder and heavy, high-speed traffic, it is highly recommended that hikers find another form of transportation on this highway segment. After dropping down off the rugged coast and through the welcoming town of Florence, the trail crosses a long, continuous beach leg of nearly 15 miles. Then the trail shares the beach with OHVs through the largest expanse of temperate coastal sand dunes in north America, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which begins just south of Reedsport.

Section 7: North Bend to Bandon

The route leaves the dunes behind and passes through the small town of North Bend, where an optional side trip to Cape Arago should be highly considered. Once a vast luxury estate, Shore Acres State Park sits on a rugged bluff that sees some of the largest waves in the state if the swells are right. This will add a total of 7.6 miles onto your trip. This section ends in the scenic town of Bandon, where visitors can spend time appreciating the marvelous sea stacks at Face Rock.

Section 8: Bandon to Humbug Mountain State Park

Section 8 includes the last substantially long beach, which lies at the start of this section. The 16.5-mile walk from Bandon to Floras Lake gives the now intrepid OCT hiker an opportunity to reflect on previous beach crossings and appreciate the unique white cliffs near Blacklock Point that flank the beach. The trail passes the aptly named Cape Blanco and then follows some non-vehicle pavement on the old Highway 101 before reaching Humbug Mountain.

Section 9: Humbug Mountain to Pistol River

The trail is, again, along the highway for the first part of this section, and pedestrian travel is risky. As is common on most of the roadway segments of the OCT, rugged coastal views abound. Then there is another beach segment followed by Otter Point. The route continues through the town of Gold Beach and is followed by some old-fashioned dirt trail segments through Cape Sebastian before reaching Pistol River.

Section 10: Pistol River to California

The final section begins in one of the most photographed stretches of coastline in the state. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is where the forest literally meets the ocean via broken coastline: Dozens and dozens of tree-crowned sea stacks cascade away from the shore. The trail is back on pavement for the final time through Brookings, Oregon's southernmost town, before it rejoins the beach and crosses into California.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

30

Pros

Coastal old-growth forest. Big ocean vistas. Solitude. Backcountry and beach campsites.

Cons

Long roadway segments. Confusing or absent trail signage.

Trailhead Elevation

13.00 ft (3.96 m)

Highest point

1,631.00 ft (497.13 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,618.00 ft (493.17 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Flushing toilets
Potable water
Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Shelters
Historically significant
Geologically significant
Old-growth forest
Waterfalls
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Lighthouse
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Bird watching
Fishing
Horseback riding

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint

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A profound concept originally envisioned by governor Oswald West, in 1967 the Oregon legislature ultimately realized his vision of making the entire Oregon Coast forever open to the public in a piece of landmark legislation titled the Oregon Beach Bill, officially making all 363 miles public land. "The People's Coast" is truly a one-of-a-kind coastline, a unique blend of mountains and rocky stacks, towering old growth forests, marine sanctuaries, tide pools and kelp forests, charming towns, historic fishing communities, world-class golfing, breweries, and simply jaw-dropping scenic beaches. We encourage you to plan your next trip at visittheoregoncoast.com or by calling (541) 574-2679.

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