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Cascade Head Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Closed Hike. Some or all of this hike has been closed by a governing body and hikers may be liable for fines or even arrest. At least part of this route may be dangerous and hard to follow, or it may cross areas with sensitive plant life or wildlife habitat. Trailkeepers of Oregon does not endorse or recommend hiking this route. When restrictions are lifted, this notice will be removed.
TKO put tools to trail here.png
The Nature Conservancy Trail on Cascade Head (Steve Hart)
Butterfly habitat sign (Steve Hart)
Hairy checkermallow (Steve Hart)
Buck in velvet (Steve Hart)
GPS track of the Nature Conservancy Trail (Steve Hart)
Elevation profile (Steve Hart)
  • Start point: Knights Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Nature Conservancy Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1310 feet
  • High point: 1,305 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Lower trailhead year round. Upper trailhead is closed Jan 1-Jul 15
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

CLOSURE NOTICE: The Nature Conservancy has closed this trail since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

PLEASE NOTE: Dogs are not permitted on this trail even on leash. You may have seen people going up with dogs: these scofflaws are ignoring signs and the explicit directions of the Nature Conservancy. This is a private trail: DO NOT bring your pet!

This is one of the truly amazing places on the Oregon Coast. It has spectacular views down to Three Rocks, the Salmon River Estuary, and the headlands north of Lincoln City. The grassy headland is also home to an endangered species of butterfly, the Oregon silverspot, and at least two rare plant species. Much of the hike is on Nature Conservancy land, and you are subject to the Conservancy's own restrictions, as the primary purpose for this protected area is the conservation of native species. Please stay on the trail and leave your pet at home!

The hike begins at Knights Park. The first part of trail follows a path of wood shavings scant feet from Three Rocks Road. Cross the road and you'll find the path headed north on the shoulder of Savage Road. The trail dips from the road to reach a wooden bridge, and then parallels the road through the trees. At the crest of a hill, the path crosses the road and follows its west shoulder. A sign at the bottom of the hill marks the original trailhead, where the trail leaves the road for good.

With the roadside hike done, you'll begin climbing steeply, sometimes on stairs, through an old growth coastal forest. Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce dominate the area. You're on National Forest land in this short section, but please stay on the trail as private property is close. You'll climb about 270 feet in the first 2/10 of a mile to a grove of Sitka spruce indicated by a "13" marker. The climb eases here.

The trail crosses a couple of bridges over small streams and then enters a virtual tunnel of undergrowth. There are nearby houses here, but the thick, impenetrable growth separates them from the trail as effectively as distance. You'll cross Teal Creek in a dense wood and then start climbing again, although more gradually this time. At the edge of the Nature Conservancy land, there's an informational sign and a donation box. The meadows you're about to visit were saved from developers in the 1960s by the Nature Conservancy. (The same organization preserved Rowena Plateau and McCall Point in the Columbia River Gorge.) All hikers owe them a debt of gratitude. This hike wouldn't even be here without their efforts. Please consider a donation.

Very quickly after the sign, you'll break free of the forest and enter the headland meadow. The views to the south are awe-inspiring. The Salmon River Estuary dominates an ocean view that extends to Lincoln City. There's a small oasis of trees in a draw before the trail again hits the open slopes. The path traverses along the ridge at about the 500 foot level, finally coming to a view north and down a cliff to the ocean. From there, the trail switches back to begin climbing the slope. After several switchbacks, it levels out somewhat at the 1200 foot level at an upper viewpoint.

This headland meadow is a very rare ecosystem. There are two rare plants that call this hill home, the Cascade Head catchfly (Silene douglasii var oraria) and the hairy-stemmed checkermallow (Sidalcea hirtipes). Both of these species make their strongest stand here. It's estimated the 99% of all Cascade Head catchflies live on this one hill. The hairy checkermallow isn't quite that rare, but it still holds the rating of a "species of concern".

Most people will turn around in the meadow area. The last 0.6 miles of trail as well as the Nature Conservancy Trailhead, all in the Siuslaw National Forest, are closed from January 1st to July 15th.

If you're continuing (between July 15th and December 31st), follow the trail eastward on the north side of the ridge. This side is timbered, and it's a completely different hiking experience. The trail picks up a long-abandoned road as the level path works its way through an open forest carpeted with candy flower. There's a wooden arch across the trail at one point, and salmonberries are plentiful in season. It's almost a mile from the upper viewpoint to the Nature Conservancy Trailhead on Road 1861, but the walk is a quick one. If you have a second car, you can drive back, or you can hike back the way you came.


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Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon's Best Wildflower Hikes: Northwest Region by George Wuerthner
  • Beer Hiking: Pacific Northwest by Rachel Wood & Brandon Fralic
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Oregon's Central Coast Range Trails by Irene & Dick Lilja
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill


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Contributors

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.