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Arch Cape Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View north to Arch Cape, Cove Beach (bobcat)
The arch at Arch Cape (bobcat)
Arch Cape Creek from the suspension bridge, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
Under the spruces, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
View to Gull Rocks and Castle Rock from Cove Beach (bobcat)
The low tide loop around Arch Cape and return via the Oregon Coast Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Tide Road TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Arch Cape
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 520 feet
  • High point: 530 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This is a low tide loop that takes in several coastal features and environments. Cove Beach lies between Arch Cape and Cape Falcon: There are a couple of points of access for the public. The beach is backed by a high bar of lava cobbles which clink and clank when the high tides reach them; thus, it is also known as “Magic Rocks Beach.” The stretch of sand is entirely covered by high tides. Gull Rock is close to the shore, while Castle Rock juts up farther offshore. At either end of the beach are lava headlands, but the community of Cove sits on a soft former ocean floor and a few houses have already slid down the slope. At low tide, you can walk around Arch Cape through the Arch Cape Arch to pass a couple of sea caves in the making. Then head inland to walk under Highway 101 on the route of the Oregon Coast Trail, which takes you through lush Sitka spruce/hemlock forest into Oswald West State Park. You'll hike the last section of the route down Falcon Cove Road to your car.

Make sure you time your arrival at the Tide Road Trailhead for about one hour/45 minutes before low tide. A walk up and down Cove Beach only is 3.4 miles round-trip, but again, you'll only get sand around the time of low tide.

Take the new stairway down to the beach. Find your way past the driftwood and onto the wide bar of lava cobbles which backs the entire beach. It’s much easier to walk on the sand, however. To explore the south end of the beach, cross Mason Creek to reach the rocks of the Cape Falcon headland. The slumping bluff here is set to claim one or two more homes in the near future. You'll see the second public access point to the beach in the form of a steep path that leads up next to the creek. The best tide pools are at the south end of the beach. At very low tide, you can scramble round two points to two secluded beaches, but make sure you have time to get back!

Return to pass the access stairway. At low tide, a pool forms at the base of the cobbles. Walk north towards Arch Cape. Cross Mason Creek and look up to see the soft, sliding slope of sedimentary deposits from an ancient ocean floor. Several houses have already met their doom because they were perched too close to the edge. A woodland of Sitka spruce is silhouetted above. A cluster of rocks stand close to the shore; the largest of these is Gull Rock. Look for gulls, murres, and guillemots nesting and congregating on the rock. Farther out to sea is the stack of Castle Rock (All of these rocks are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and are designated wilderness areas.). Cross Cedar Creek opposite Gull Rock, and then head up the cobbles where they form a causeway or dam between the beach and a dark, driftwood-cluttered lagoon.

Descend to the beach again, and hike past the last homes. Highway 101 passes close above them, and you can see part of the portal of the Arch Cape Tunnel. Closer to the Arch Cape headland, you'll either need to clamber over barnacle encrusted rocks or, better, slosh through shallow wash on the beach to reach the base of the rugged headland. Walk through the Arch Cape Arch, and then pass between a large pyramid-shaped stack and a young sea cave. Look for black oystercatchers in the vicinity. There's a deeper sea cave in the headland before you reach and cross Arch Cape Creek.

Walk towards the vegetation verge: Public access is at emergency locator #19 near a U.S. flag on a pole. You'll see an Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) marker. Walk two blocks inland on Leech Lane, then make a right on Cannon Road. Head left under Highway 101 on E. Shingle Mill Road. Keep straight as you pass some attractive shingle-sided homes. Before a bend in the road, you'll see the OCT marker at a telephone pole. This is the Shingle Mill Trailhead. Go up a driveway to an impressive suspension bridge over Arch Cape Creek. Next is a footbridge over a tributary. Here, the forest is composed of red alder, western hemlock, western red-cedar, Sitka spruce, and sword fern. Ascend gradually on an old road bed. Notice big cedar stumps in an area known as 'Parodice [sic] Gardens': You'll see the sign on a trail leading right with its "pair of dice" rolled to a 3 and 4 (maybe a craps seven) illustrated! The gardens seem to consist of a large patch of Skimmia japonica, which has fragrant cream-colored flowers; the female plants exhibit red berries in the fall. The trail levels and then rises again into older woods of spruce and hemlock. Deer fern, salal, sword fern, and red huckleberry are the common understory plants. Make three switchbacks up past some big spruces before traversing up in dense newer forest. The trail levels, dips, and rises through a salmonberry thicket before becoming level. Walk along an old road bed on the ocean side of the slope and see Highway 101 below. The trails drops through a salmonberry clearing and then passes more big spruce before rising again. Then the path makes a final drop on an old logging road hemmed in by alders to reach Highway 101.

The Coast Trail resumes 50 yards south on the opposite side of Highway 101. Enter beautiful mossy woods. The trail drops past a huge cedar and crosses a footbridge over a creek. The path heads above a ravine and drops to cross two more footbridges. Undulate along below Highway 101 and pass into Tillamook County. The trail does some more undulating before arriving at paved Falcon Cove Road. Descend down Falcon Cove Road: It's 0.8 miles from here to your vehicle. Stay right at Elk Flat Road on Columbia Street. When you reach Tide Avenue, you can go left to walk behind the homes above the beach, some of which are precariously perched on the edge of the slumping bluff.


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Keep to the beach, roads, and Oregon Coast Trail route; respect private property

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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