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Cascade Head Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Nature Conservancy Trail on Cascade Head (Steve Hart)
Butterfly habitat sign (Steve Hart)
Hairy Checkermallow (Steve Hart)
Buck in velvet (Steve Hart)
  • Start point: Cascade Head Lower TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cascade Head Upper Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back or Traverse with Car Shuttle
  • Distance: 6.8 miles round trip (3.4 mile traverse)
  • Elevation gain: 1310 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Lower Trailhead year round. Upper trailhead is closed Jan 1-Jul 15
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

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 and his home to an endangered species of butterfly and at least two rare plants.

The hike has recently been extended when the trailhead was moved south to Knight Park. The first part of trail is rather ho-hum as you walk 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 for a bit onto a wooden bridge, then parallels the road through the trees. At the crest of a hill the path crosses the road and becomes the west shoulder of the road. 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, things start to get interesting quick. You'll climb steeply, sometimes on stairs, through an old growth coastal forest. Doug fir and spruce dominate the area. You're on National Forest land here, 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 marked by a "13" marker. The climb eases here.

The trail crosses a couple of small streams on new bridges, 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 on a completely treed in bridge 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 where saved from developers in the 1960s by the Nature Conservancy. The same group preserved Rowena Crest 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 are immediately tremendous to the south. The Salmon River Estuary dominates an ocean view that extends to Lincoln City. There's a small oasis of trees is a draw, then the trail again hits the open slopes. The trail traverses along the ridge at about the 500 foot level, finally coming to a view north, down a cliff to the Pacific. 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".

The trail now heads 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 an the level path works its way through an open forest carpeted with Candy Flowers. 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 Upper Trailhead, 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.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs are not permitted on this trail
  • Off-trail travel is not permitted

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 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 of Portland, by Paul Gerald
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja

More Links


GPS track of the Nature Conservancy Trail (Steve Hart)
Elevation profile (Steve Hart)
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.