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Harris Beach Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Rock Beach, Harris Beach State Park (bobcat)
Looking up at Harris Butte (bobcat)
Goat Island from Harris Beach (bobcat)
Flowering gorse (Ulex europaeus), Harris Beach State Park (bobcat)
South Beach, Harris Beach State Park (bobcat)
The beach walk and trails at Harris Beach State Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Harris Beach TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: South Harris Beach
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Loop with spur
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 305 feet
  • High Point: 240 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

Harris Beach, given its proximity to Brookings, the California redwoods, and other natural attractions on the Oregon Coast, has one of the most popular campgrounds on the Oregon Coast. There is a little space to roam here, however. You can walk the small beaches and explore tide pools, take the Sunset Point Trail to get views to Goat Island and the intriguing array of offshore sea stacks, and hike up Harris Butte for even more extensive panoramas. Bring your binoculars: This is a good whale-watching spot and, come spring, tens of thousands of seabirds will be nesting on any vegetated island offshore.

Harris Beach is named for George Harris, a Scotsman who settled here in the late 19th century. The prominence on the seaward side of the parking area is a rhyolite dike, and you’ll see other colorful examples of quartz-veined rhyolite as you stroll the beach. Out to sea is Goat Island, also called Bird Island, at 21 acres the largest island off the Oregon Coast and part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Oregon Islands Wilderness. In spring and summer, the island is noisily crowded with 100,000 nesting sea birds, including such unusual species as Leach’s storm petrels and tufted puffins. An interpretive sign tells about the 1991 Tenyo Maru oil spill off Cape Flattery in Washington and its effect on marine life up and down the coast.

Take the trail down to the beach from here, and find a way to cross Harris Creek. Look up to see the rocky, gorse-infested slopes of 270-foot high Harris Butte, and then walk north. Stacks of various shapes and sizes are sprinkled out in the waters. Reach a scattering of rocks at the north end of the beach, and explore some of the tide pools here for sea stars, anemones, and various colorful sea weeds. Do not step on any living creatures, including barnacles and mussels.

Walk south around the base of the rhyolite knoll, and come to a jumble of large boulders blocking your course. Find the path that leads up and then down to Rock Beach, giving an elevated view out to Goat Island. You’ll intersect your return trail descending from the bluff above. Once on Rock Beach, you can see the lancet window in Arch Rock, which is attached to the shore at low tide. At the lowest of tides, this rock-strewn little bay offers wonderful marine gardens for you to poke around in. Again, step only on bare rock, and don’t touch the tidal creatures. A rocky tombolo or spit leads out to another large stack. Then you’ll reach sandy South Harris Beach, backed by a steep slope of spruce, alder, silktassel, waxmyrtle, and willow. Up on the bluff, you’ll see emergency locator #192 and, just before Eiler Creek, and a trail leading up into the thickets. You can stroll the beach a short distance farther at low tide to a headland just past Ransom Creek, but then return to this trail.

Switchback up through blackberries and native shrubbery to reach a parking area on the park entrance road (Just east of here, a 0.6 mile paved path can take you in to Brookings if you so wish). The Sunset Point Trail leads back along the bluff from here. From up here, there’s a panoramic view of Goat Island and all the stacks. From another parking area, take the gravel path that parallels the road. A chip trail branches off to the left to reach a copse of shady spruces, where there’s a bench with a view to Arch Rock. Reach the Stop sign. A trail leads left from here back down to the beach, but to get to the highest viewpoint in the park, go right to cross the road. Bear left on a paved bike path (former road section), and come to a trail leading into the woods at the base of Harris Butte.

At a junction with the Harris Beach Trail, make a left, and hike up the slope under Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce shading thickets of evergreen huckleberry and sword fern. Switchback twice to the summit area of wind-sclupted spruce. A fenced viewing area offers wide-raging views out to sea as well as north to Cape Ferrelo and south past Brookings Harbor to California. Return to the junction. Going left will take you ¼ mile back to your car. However, for one more visit to the beach, go right and walk back to the road. Near the Stop sign, a trail leads out to some benches. Make six tight switchbacks down to a cleft in the large rocks, and go right to descend to Harris Beach. Walk across the sand, and then take the zigzagging railed walkway back to the parking area.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms, picnic tables
  • Pay attention to tide tables
  • Dogs on leash
  • Campground

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon’s Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

More Links


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.