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Arch Cape to Short Sand Beach Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
Cape Falcon's south headland from Short Sand Beach (bobcat)
Suspension bridge over Arch Creek, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
Parodice Gardens sign, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
Under the spruces, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
North face of the south headland, Cape Falcon (bobcat)
Oregon Coast Trail route, Arch Cape to Short Sand Beach (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo


Hike Description

The Oregon Coast Trail cobbles together beach and headland hikes to stretch, with gaps here and there, from Clatsop Spit to the California border. The stretch between the community of Arch Cape and Cape Falcon, in Oswald West State Park, is one the of the least travelled and therefore one which affords some solitude - although civilization is never too far away. The woods are often dark and deep, but once the coastal cliffs are attained, the hiker gets views of Cape Falcon's rugged cliffs, actually three headlands, before descending to the more peopled, but beautiful Sitka spruce forest near Short Sand Beach.

In addition to the in and out hike, there are a couple of other options here:

Hike past the Oregon Coast Trail sign, which is at a telephone pole, and up a driveway to a nice 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 crossing paved Falcon Cove Road. Cross five footbridges with the trail still close to the highway. Head up now until the trail becomes level and veers away from the highway on an old logging road in an area known as Elk Flats (Yes, look for elk sign here). Pass over a creek directed through a culvert. Then reach a wooden sign pointing left off the road bed for Cape Falcon.

The trail winds up in mossy woods and then traverses up a slope under large Sitka spruce. Make several switchbacks in dense, dark young spruce woods and head along a crest on an old logging road. Then drop in very dense, dark forest. Traverse up again, drop, and then wind down on the ever-rooty, muddy trail. Switchback down five times and then wind down to the cliffs above the ocean and the first viewpoint, which on a good day offers views all the way up to Tillamook Head. The trail switchbacks down twice and keeps descending in dense salal thickets shaded by Sitka spruce. Now the trail rises and then makes two short switchbacks down to a view of the colorful south headland of Cape Falcon.

From here, the trail descends in Sitka spruce woods to cross two creeks. The trail heads out the southern point of the Cape Falcon headland and drops through a dense salal thicket. From an unmarked junction, a spur leads right out to the headland, with various sub-spurs offering views across Smuggler Cove to Neahkahnie Mountain and Manzanita also north to the other points of the cape. From the spur, the main trail rises and makes a traverse. Then make two short switchbacks down to the remnants of a paved trail. You will begin to encounter more people in this area. A spur leads right for a nice view of the upper tier of Blumenthal Falls. The lower tier pours directly into Smugglers Cove. Cross Blumenthal Creek, head up, and then make a traverse to cross two more footbridges. Cross another stream, and rise past one of the biggest cedar stumps you will ever see. The trail drops to cross Kerwin Creek and then rises on a very muddy tread to a junction.

Here, go right for Short Sand Beach (left leads to the Cape Falcon Trailhead). Pass a viewpoint and wind down to a picnic area. From here, head down to Short Sand Beach. This is a crowded spot in good weather. When the tide is in, only cobbles are exposed but at any time, the picturesque setting of Smugglers Cove is worth a dally. Blumenthal Falls pours down on the bay's north side from Cape Falcon's south headland and legions of surfers may be waiting out in the waves.

For the car shuttle or the loop, head back past the restrooms, go right and cross a footbridge over Short Sand Creek. The wide trail rises along the south side of Short Sand Creek and passes two junctions in the vicinity of the former campground (Overnight camping is no longer permitted because of the danger of falling trees). The path then heads under Highway 101 and reaches restrooms at a parking area. Go left here and head long the creek before recrossing it on a footbridge into a day use area next to the highway.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fees
  • Dogs on leash.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail by Bonnie Henderson
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland and Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • 100 Hikes: Oregon Coast by William L. Sullivan
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • A Hiker's Guide to the Oregon Coast Trail by David E.M. Bucy & Mary C. McCauley
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.