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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,637.00 ft (498.96 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
42.90 mi (69.04 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.

Section 4 of the Oregon Coast Trail sees the longest roadway travel of any other section. In the 43 miles from Pacific City to Otter Rock, the trail is routed around Nestucca and Siletz Bays, around Cascade Head, and along some of the roughest coastline in Oregon. This segment includes a total of nearly 25 miles of roadway travel, the majority of which is along the shoulder of U.S. Highway 101. Of the remaining 18 miles, only a quarter of a mile is on a dirt trail, and the rest is on sandy beach. Though OCT hikers will be traveling mostly on pavement, the views are still quite scenic. Hikers are encouraged to utilize other forms of transportation for segments that require travel on highly trafficked roadways.

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.

Pacific City to Lincoln Beach

At the end of Section 3, starting on Pacific Avenue in Pacific City, follow Brooten Road for 3 miles to Highway 101. Stay on the highway for 3 miles as it wraps around Nestucca Bay, then turn right on Winema Road (following signs for Camp Winema) and follow it to its end. Camp Winema is a Christian camp that also operates a separate public RV and tent campground, and it is an ideal overnight stop given the infrequent opportunities for overnight camping in this section. Pets are not allowed in this campground. Access the beach here and walk 4 miles to Neskowin. The Cascade Head Scenic Research Area (CHSRA) and Cascade Head Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Areas begin south of Neskowin. There are camping prohibitions and parking restrictions in the CHSRA, and there are specific prohibitions against fishing and the harvesting of fish, invertebrates, and seaweed in the marine reserve. Check here for specific clarifications on regulations, exemptions, and a detailed representation of the marine reserve boundaries. There is no camping in the CHSRA. The majority of the beach is strictly sand with the impressive Proposal Rock sitting at its end and Cascade Head looming to the south of it. Proposal Rock was named by a 19th-century sea captain who rowed his beloved to it to ask for her hand in marriage. The rock is crowned with scrub Sitka spruce, and bald eagles can sometimes be seen here. Just south of the rock and across a deep wade through Hawk Creek (not technically on the OCT) sits another highlight: A 2,000-year-old petrified forest lies entombed in the sand.

From Proposal Rock, walk alongside Hawk Creek into the small, scenic town of Neskowin, turn right on Salem Avenue, and then turn right on Highway 101. Follow Highway 101 south for 2.1 miles up to Cascade Head Road, also known as Forest Service Road 1861. Turn right onto Cascade Head Road/FS Road 1861 and follow it for 0.5 miles until the junction with Cascade Head Trail. Note Cascade Head Road is officially closed to hikers from January 1 through July 15. Follow Cascade Head Trail 2.6 miles south to where it intersects Highway 101. Follow Highway 101 south for 3 miles over the marshlands of the Salmon River into Lincoln City, then turn right on Northwest 39th Street and follow it to a walkway that leads back to the beach. Walk along the beaches of Lincoln City for 5.5 miles. There are a couple of different rocky points containing tide pools when the tide is right. There is also a mild creek crossing through D River, which is actually the shortest river in the world and which drains Devils Lake into the ocean. All the while, enjoy views behind you to the north of the impressive Cascade Head. The trail wraps around with the beach at the south end following Siletz Bay inlet. Exit the beach at Siletz Bay Park, where you'll use Highway 101 to cross Erikson Creek.

The trail then continues on Highway 101 for 3.1 miles as it wraps around Siletz Bay and past the Salishan resort. Turn right onto Gleneden Beach Loop. After 0.8 miles turn right onto Wesler Street, following signs for Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site to return to the beach and continue south for a total of 2.2 miles.  After about 0.8 miles you'll reach an unnamed point that will only be passable at low tide. An alternative is to exit the beach here on El Mundo Avenue and follow residential streets south to Fishing Rock State Park. Otherwise, once you've passed this unnamed point, continue to Fishing Rock at the south end of Lincoln Beach. The beach here is somewhat unique with small agates mixed into the sand and a sand ramp where deep water forces waves to push sand up onto the beach.

Fishing Rock to Otter Rock

The trail continues on to Fishing Rock at the southernmost end of Lincoln Beach as a well-marked dirt trail. Fishing Rock is made up of fragile sandstone, and given its vantage over deep off-shore waters, it is an ideal whale watching location. Gray and humpback whales can be seen most frequently between December and January as they migrate south to their calving grounds. Note the recent landslides that indicate just how fragile this small headland is. The trail is surrounded by classic, thick salal along with other vegetation. Exit Fishing Rock along the marked trail to the southeast. From the parking area, follow Fogarty Avenue south as it reconnects with Highway 101.

Cross the highway and proceed south through Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area. Look for the trail under the highway and follow it as it continues just west of the highway and south to Boiler Bay. Astonishing basalt cliffs jut out of the ocean at Boiler Bay State Wayside, creating an impressively rugged coast. This is another ideal vantage point for watching gray whales during migration season. Bird watching opportunities include shearwaters, jaegers, albatrosses, grebes, pelicans, loons, oystercatchers and murrelets. In 1910 the J. Marhoffe, a steamboat en route from San Francisco to Portland, caught on fire after an assistant engineer who was unfamiliar with the design of the gas torch attempted to light it. This led to an explosion, causing debris to be thrown up to a half mile on shore. The ship ran aground here, and its Boiler can still be seen at low tide on calm days.

Possibly the most popular whale watching spot on the Oregon Coast is Depoe Bay, another 1.25 miles down Highway 101. The town boasts that it has the smallest harbor in the world, and this area sees many gray whales right in its deep bay along with large crashing waves during large swells. Hikers will also find the Whale Watching Center, operated by ORPD, a worthwhile stop. From here it's another 2 miles along a trail just off of the highway to Rocky Creek State Wayside. This large grassy viewpoint, filled with picnic tables, is an ideal place to see sea lions and harbor seals hauling out on the offshore rocks.

A calm roadway route lies to the south from here on Otter Crest Loop Road for 3.5 miles to Otter Rock. This one-way road provides an ample shoulder and bike lane, and there is a significant amount of signage warning drivers of pedestrian traffic. The views are numerous and spectacular from high bluffs as the road climbs higher and higher to the top of Cape Foulweather and Otter Crest State Wayside. At 500 feet, this high viewpoint provides unobstructed panoramic views of the vast Pacific from north to south. Perched on the bluff, you will also find a small gift shop and observatory known as The Lookout at Cape Foulweather. From here, it's a short 1.6-mile walk along Otter Crest Loop down the south side of the cape into the small community of Otter Rock and Section 5. For a camping opportunity at the end of this section, Beverly Beach State Park is just another 1.3 miles after Otter Rock. Note that Otter Rock is part of the Otter Rock Marine Reserve. 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.

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.

For further information on the Oregon Coast Trail, be sure to check out these articles:

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Scenic beach walking. Access to public transportation. Historic beachfront cities.

Cons

Longest roadway travel section on the OCT. Closed trails. Very limited overnight camping options.

Trailhead Elevation

3.00 ft (0.91 m)

Highest point

831.00 ft (253.29 m)

Net Elevation Gain

824.00 ft (251.16 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Flushing toilets
Potable water
Near lake or river
Old-growth forest
Big vistas
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Bird watching
Fishing

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

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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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