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Gwynn Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On the ridge, Cooks Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Toothed monkey flower (Mimulus dentatus), Cooks Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Thicket deer vetch (Lotus aboriginus), Gwynn Creek Trail (bobcat)
View to Gwynn Knoll, Oregon Coast Trail (bobcat)
Big Douglas-firs, Gwynn Creek Trail (bobcat)
The Gwynn Creek Loop at Cape Perpetua (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS


Hike Description

On good weather days, the short trails leading down to the rugged, rocky shores of Cape Perpetua are often crowded. A good, shady respite is to take this loop up to follow a wooded ridge and creek in the coastal foothills. The main attractions here are the massive old growth Sitka spruce and Douglas-fir, the latter more inland, the spruce closer to the coast. Little sunny glades intersperse the stands of tall trees on Cooks Ridge, while Gwynn Creek burbles below a gradually descending trail on the return loop. The connector to the Cape Perpetua Trailhead is via the Oregon Coast Trail, which follows an old wagon route and offers a few views of the dramatic shoreline below.

Walk up to the RV parking area and find the trailhead on its south end. The Cooks Ridge Trail leads up on an old logging track into the Sitka spruce/western hemlock forest past a map sign. Here the understory is dominated by elderberry, wood fern, sword fern, evergreen huckleberry, and salal. There are couple of benches trailside and you cross a footbridge before continuing up the slope on a wide path. Notice your first big Sitka spruce and reach the Cooks Ridge-Discovery Loop Trail West Junction. The latter is an interpretive loop trail that rejoins the Cooks Ridge Trail higher up. If you want to take it go right.

The Cooks Ridge Trail keeps up on a narrow tread now and switchbacks. There’s a large standing spruce behind an interpretive sign and then you reach the Cooks Ridge-Discovery Loop Trail East Junction, where you keep left. The trail levels at another big spruce and drops a little before rising to a ridge crest. The route drops again and the first Douglas-firs enter the conifer mix. Descend to a saddle with some large Douglas-firs and then head up in an understory of salal and sword fern. Pass through beautiful glades carpeted with oxalis and candy flower. The trail levels again on the ridge crest before dropping among Douglas-firs and hemlocks to reach the Cooks Ridge-Gwynn Creek Trail Junction.

Go right and traverse down a lush slope forested by Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and a few cedars. Switchback and make a long traverse that will cross numerous small creek gullies. After the first creek, pass a huge Douglas-fir; below it there is a massive Sitka Spruce. There will be more old growth Douglas-firs before you catch your first glimpses of Gwynn Creek running below. As you get closer to the coast, the large spruces begin to outnumber the Douglas-firs. Pass a state park boundary sign (You are entering Neptune State Park) and enter a thicket of salal to reach the Oregon Coast-Gwynn Creek Trail Junction.

Go left to a footbridge to get your first close view of Gwynn Creek. Then return to the junction and continue north on the Oregon Coast Trail. The trail follows the old wagon road that ran north from Florence. The trail route is above Highway 101 and soon you get views of the shore line below, from the Strawberry Hill Picnic Area to the headland of Gwynn Knoll. Rise gently and enjoy the irises that bloom trailside in late spring. Sitka spruce have now colonized the wagon road and thickets of salal hem you in at times, restricting the views. Soon you will get views of Captain Cook Point, the road bridge over Cooks Chasm and the steep slopes of Cape Perpetua. Reach the Visitor Center road and cross it to the junction with the Cooks Chasm Trail. Go right up this paved path and pass the foundation of a Civilian Conservation Corps building (The CCC was active in building trails and facilities here in the 1930s). Wind up through a salal thicket to the Visitor Center, which has a balcony that offers expansive views to the Devils Churn and Cape Perpetua. Then return across the road to the parking area.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Cape Perpetua Scenic Area Map (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Cummins Creek Wilderness, Drift Creek Wilderness, Rock Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Siuslaw National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Restrooms, picnic area, visitor center, interpretive signs, campground near trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • 75 Hikes in Oregon's Coast Range and Siskiyous by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington

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.