Best Oregon Beach Hikes Along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
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The Oregon coast is known for its scenic beaches and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor has a reputation for having some of the most stunningly beautiful ocean views and beaches in the state.
It has always been a dream of mine to drive the Oregon coast in its entirety. I’ve still yet to drive the entire coastline, but I did get to explore the Southern Oregon coast this past summer. We were driving north after backpacking to Gold Bluffs Beach in Redwood National Park. We were on our way to our next adventure, backpacking Three Sisters Wilderness, and we decided to drive up the coast before cutting east to explore the Umpqua Trail and Crater Lake on our way to Bend, Oregon.
Seeing a bit of the Oregon coast did not disappoint! In fact it has made me want to explore Oregon even more. But, Oregon beaches aren’t signed as well as California beaches are so I know that I’ll have to do a bit of research before exploring the entire coastline. Lucky for you, I did the research for you and note the beaches and scenic overlooks that you won’t want to miss.
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
To see some of Southern Oregon’s most stunning coastline all you have to do is drive the 12 ocean-hugging miles of Highway 101 between Brookings and Gold Beach. But to truly experience the breathtaking beauty of this rustic coastline you need to get out of your car and walk the coast.
There are a few different ways to experience the beauty of the area. If you have time I’d recommend parking at a trailhead and walking the Oregon Coast Trail. This segment of the trail stretches 18 miles through the corridor. I really wish we could have hiked the trail, but we only had a few hours to explore so we drove from one parking area to the next and explored the short trails at every stop.
Best Time to Visit
The mild coastal climate means that you can explore the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor all year long. But, if you want to hike the trails it is best to visit in the drier and sunnier months between April-November.
If you plan to hike down to the beaches, or if you want to spend an afternoon picnicking on the shore, be sure to check the tide tables. Many of the beaches are inaccessible during high tide and you don’t want to be trapped on the cliffs!
If you want to try to spot some whales, bring your binoculars and head to the coast in the spring or winter. That’s when the gray whales migrate between Alaska and Mexico.
Best Southern Oregon Beach Hikes
Okay, so it might be a stretch to call these hikes, but the steep terrain make some of these a bit more taxing than your typical stroll on the beach. Luckily, since none of these beaches require more than 2-miles of walking you can visit all of the best secluded beaches and craggy bluffs in a single morning.
Going from south to north on the Oregon coast, here are my top five beaches and viewpoints to explore along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
This was our first stop of the morning and we couldn’t have chosen a more iconic Oregon beach to start our explorations. Whaleshead beach is a long sandy beach with large shark-tooth shaped rocks dotting the sand.
Whaleshead Beach got its name for a large rock that looks like the head of a whale. When a wave hits the rock the sea spray looks like a whale spouting. When we visited the beach, the rocks were shrouded in a heavy fog. As we walked along the coast the fog slowly lifted and by the time we reached the river estuary at the north side of the beach we were treated to a beautiful view of the rugged cliffs reflected in the estuary’s still water.
You can access the beach from the south by taking a steep trail from the Whaleshead Viewpoint pullout along the highway. Or, if you have a more rugged vehicle you can take a rutted dirt road located a half-mile north of the viewpoint. There’s a parking area at the end of the road and you can access the beach from a flat, easy path near the Whaleshead Beach Picnic Area.
A short path (less than a mile) leads to a stunning viewpoint. The blufftop perch overlooks a cove with seven arched rocks and blowholes. At Natural Bridges it seems like the forest tumbles into the sea. There are large trees and small groves of pine trees on top of the dramatic rock formations.
This is probably the most photographed place in the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor. And it’s easy to see why. The Natural Bridges parking area is on the west side of Highway 101 and can fit about 10 cars. The wooden bridge on the left side of the lot provides the best viewpoint. Although there are some daredevils who hike down to the arches, it really isn’t necessary to hike any farther than the bridge as the sights are pretty darn good from the viewpoint.
If you do want to hike down to the arches, there is an “illegal” path to the right of the parking lot that will lead you onto the bridges themselves. This path is extremely dangerous and slippery. The area is also sensitive nesting habitat for shorebirds so during mating season park officials will block this path, and may even ticket visitors who ignore the blockades.
Secret Beach is a hidden treasure. At low tide the beach has two large sandy sections to explore. After a short but steep hike, followed by a short section of rock scrambling you’ll cross a small creek along the beach. If you walk to the southern end of the beach and pass the large rock formation you’ll find a secret little cove and a peaceful place to sit that is out of the wind.
There isn’t a sign for this beach, but it is easy to find the pullout if you know where to look. There is a small parking area behind the guardrail on the west side of the road between mile markers 344 and 345. Take the trail on the right side of the parking area down to the beach.
The hike to the beach and back is 1.5 miles round trip. Watch out for collapsing sections of sand along the banks of the tidal river. You may think that you can hop across the river, only to discover that the sand gives way and you end up with wet feet!
From the paved parking lot, a short path wraps along the bluff and leads to an overlook featuring a series of rocky outcroppings offshore.
This beach is named for the large rock with the arch in the center on the north side of the viewing area. Equally beautiful as the arched rock is the view of the bluffs from the south side of the viewpoint.
There is a bathroom at the parking lot.
Cape Sebastian Viewpoint
Located six miles south of Gold Beach, the Cape Sebastian Viewpoint is technically part of the Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor. But, looking south from this viewpoint gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
At Cape Sebastian the coastline juts west and rises about 700 feet. From the top of the bluff visitors can see the coastline stretch out for 50-miles to the south, and 43-miles to the north. The view from Cape Sebastian lets you appreciate the vast beauty of the Oregon coast.
To reach the viewpoint, turn west off of the highway and make a short drive through a thick Sitka spruce forest. There is a small parking area with spaces for about 7 cars and a trail that leads out, onto the bluff. When we visited the winds were so strong that they almost blew us off of our feet, and it was too much to hike the bluff trail.
Where to Stay and Eat When Visiting the Oregon Coast
Depending on your itinerary you can stay in Gold Beach or Brookings when you are exploring the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
We drove this section of the coast as part of Northern California and Southern Oregon road trip. After backpacking to Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods we headed north, crossed into Oregon and spent the night in Brookings. We sampled some of Oregon’s famous brews at Chetco Brewing Company and had some yummy Thai food nearby at Khun Thai.
All of the restaurants and bars in Brookings close by 9pm, so be sure to arrive early in the evening so you have time to explore before things close. We stayed at the Westward Inn, it is a basic motel, but the rooms were clean and the beds were comfortable. Brookings is a major town and there are a lot of hotel and motel options.
If you want something a little more rustic or something that will accommodate a large family, check out the cabins at the Whaleshead Resort. The Whaleshead is located just north of Brookings, directly across the street from Whaleshead Beach.
If you want to rough it there is camping at Harris Beach State Park. There are also a lot of RV parks in the area.
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