The Best Coastal Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

Thor's Well is one of the natural wonders you might see when taking a coastal hike in the Pacific Northwest
Thor's Well is one of the natural wonders you might see when taking a coastal hike in the Pacific Northwest | © Waqas Mustafeez / Flickr
Photo of Samantha Ladwig
13 September 2018

There’s a reason why the hashtag #pnwonderland exists – the Pacific Northwest’s incredible landscapes, which are best explored on foot.

From the mountain terrain to the sweeping coastline to the desert canyons, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most Instagrammable destinations in the entire country. And Pacific Northwest natives know that the best way to experience the area is to hike it. Below are five hikes in Washington, Oregon and California that prove the West Coast is the best coast.

Cape Alava

Hiking Trail
Map View
Cape Alava Trail, Olympic National Park
Boardwalk on the Cape Alava Trail, Olympic National Park | © U.S. Forest Service- Pacific Northwest Region / Flickr
Out on the northwestern tip of Washington State are a number of expansive beaches and trails. And while every one of them offers something unique, the Ozette Triangle around Cape Alava may be the most exciting. The 9.4-mile (15.1-kilometer) loop starts inland and follows a flat boardwalk that cuts through the forest before reaching the beach. Overnight campers are welcome to pitch their tents along the coast, but make sure to set up far enough away from the high tide. Other highlights of this coastal hike include tide pools, marine life, and ancient petroglyphs carved by the Makah tribe on Wedding Rock.

Neahkahnie Mountain

Hiking Trail
Map View
Oswald West State Park
Get a beautiful view of the coast when hiking Neahkahnie Mountain | © Paul Hamilton / Flickr
The Neahkahnie Mountain has more than one hike trailing around its peak. For more experienced hikers, there’s an eight-mile (12.8-kilometer) loop with an elevation gain of about 2,300 feet (701 meters). And for those who enjoy a lighter trek, there’s a three-mile (4.8-kilometer), out-and-back path with a less strenuous elevation gain of only 840ft (256m). The mountain welcomes hikers from all levels looking to get a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful Oregon coast. After weaving through the tall, dense forest, the trail opens up to a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean and the little towns of Manzanita and Cannon Beach. For fans of The Goonies, the latter houses the famous Haystack Rock.

Cape Perpetua

Hiking Trail
Map View
Thor's Well
Thor’s Well is a top attraction in Siuslaw National Forest's Cape Perpetua Scenic Area | © John Fowler / Flickr
The Siuslaw National Forest’s Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is more than just a coastal hike – it’s a natural wonder. Located along Oregon’s central coast, the 6.5-mile (10.4-kilometer) trail is moderate, reaching a little over 1,000ft (304.8m) of elevation gain. It weaves through a Sitka-spruce-filled forest before emerging out onto the coast where hikers can see everything from tide pools to blowholes. One of the hike’s main attractions is the collapsed sea cave known as Thor’s Well. From a distance, it looks bottomless. Despite the constant flow of the tide, the gaping hole never fills. For this reason, Thor’s Well is accurately nicknamed ‘Hell’s Gate’ and ‘the drainpipe of the Pacific.’ From coastal views to natural volcanic wonders to dense forestry, Cape Perpetua offers something for every hiker.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park Scenic Corridor

Hiking Trail
Map View
Oregon, coast
Hike through the Samuel H. Boardman State Park and catch stunning southern Oregon coastline scenes | © ThunderKiss Photography / Flickr
The Samuel H. Boardman State Park takes up a whopping 12mi (19.3km) of Oregon’s southern coast. Named after the first Oregon Parks superintendent, Samuel H. Boardman, the park is home to one of the state’s most intriguing natural wonders. It’s called the scenic corridor, and it’s a series of coves filled with rock-formed archways and islands. Hikers start out by twisting through a forest thick with 300-year-old Sitka spruce trees. But it doesn’t take long before the trees part and open up to a sweeping coastline where all the extravagant rock formations sit.

The Lost Coast

Hiking Trail
Map View
The Lost Coast, California
The Lost Coast Trail is a linear trek, making it perfect for all ages | © Daniel / Flickr
Located between Humboldt and Mendocino counties is California’s Lost Coast Trail, a historic hike fit for all ages. It’s a linear trek, stretching for 25mi (40.2km) between Mattole Beach and Shelter Cove, but it wasn’t always meant for outdoor recreation. Originally, locals intended to build a road along the coast. But the rugged terrain proved to be too difficult and costly. When the project stalled, residents moved, leaving the road and area behind. It was this chain of events that inspired the trail’s eventual name. Nowadays, hikers can walk sections of the trail, or the entire thing, depending on experience. Because portions of this hike run along the beach, it’s important to check the tide schedule before hitting the trailhead.

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