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Hobbit Beach to Heceta Head Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Heceta Head (bobcat)
View to Heceta Head, Hobbit Beach, Washburne State Park (bobcat)
View to Devils Elbow Beach and Cape Creek Bridge, Heceta Head (bobcat)
First order Fresnel lens, Heceta Head Light (bobcat)
Footbridge over Blowout Creek, Valley Trail (bobcat)
China Creek, China Creek Loop (bobcat)
The loop hike along Hobbit Beach to Heceta Head and then back via China Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo

Contents

Hike Description

The Heceta Head Lighthouse shines the brightest beam on the Oregon Coast, and it was also the last lighthouse built in the system. Its completion in 1894 filled the gap between the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and the Umpqua River Lighthouse south of Reedsport. While it’s a short walk up to the lighthouse from the parking area at Devils Elbow Beach (See the Heceta Head Hike), you can enjoy more of this part of the coast by beginning your hike at Carl G. Washburne State Park. The route follows wide Hobbit Beach and picks up trails that wind through the spruce forest to the headland’s ridge crest before dropping to the lighthouse area. The inland return loop, using the Valley and China Creek Trails, takes you back to your car through deep mossy woods.

Take the paved trail past the restrooms through a tunnel of stunted Sitka spruce and shore pine. Reach wide sandy Hobbit Beach, and head south, getting views of Heceta Head and, looking back, to Cape Perpetua. Colorful sandstone cliffs form a backdrop to the beach. You’ll soon cross Blowout Creek and pass some low rocks on the shoreline, often a resting place for the ubiquitous gulls. Cross a small creek, and see emergency locator number 93 at the bluffs. This is where the Hobbit Trail, part of the Oregon Coast Trail, leads up from the beach.

Head up through a tunnel of salal and into moss-carpeted spruce woods. Switchback up twice into a dense thicket of rhododendron, salal, and evergreen huckleberry. Switchback three more times, and then make an undulating traverse to the junction with the Heceta Head Trail: this is just a few yards from Highway 101 and the Hobbit Beach Trailhead - you'll be returning here to complete the loop.

Go right here, and drop above a leafy bowl of salal and Sitka spruce. Traverse up and switchback to drop again into another bowl. The trail traverses up and takes a couple flights of steps to switchback six times under older multi-limbed spruces cradling beds of leathery polypody ferns. Reach a ridge crest, and continue up to a bench and viewpoint over Hobbit Beach through the trees. Keep rising to the high point of the trail before dropping to switchback four times, and then take a steep flight of steps. Switchback three more times, and head down through dense, dark spruce forest. A spur leads right to a viewpoint. Continue your descent in a salmonberry/false lily-of-the-valley understory to reach the north side of the headland. A false trail leads up to a restoration area; keep left to switchback down three times and get an eye-level view to the first order Fresnel lens of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Make one more switchback down to the main path/road bed that leads to the lighthouse.

The 1894 lighthouse has recently been restored to look more like its original self, and there are tours given all year. Two oil houses greet you first (Oil stores were separated in case of an explosion), the second one now a small museum. From the lighthouse, you can look south to the Devils Elbow, Devils Elbow Beach, and the Cape Creek Bridge, one of several magnificent coastal bridges designed by engineer Conde McCullough. In the month of May, migrating gray whales swim close to shore here, and this is a good vantage point to spot sea birds, such as brown pelicans, common murres, and gulls.

To further explore the area, walk down the lighthouse road, passing a hidden cove, to pass a garage (now a giftshop) and reach the assistant lightkeeper’s house, built in 1893. This was originally a duplex for the two assistant lightkeepers and their families. The original chief lightkeeper’s house also once stood in this picket-fenced yard, but when the light was electrified, three keepers became unnecessary, and the house was sold as surplus and demolished in 1940. The existing house is now a bed and breakfast inn operated by National Forest concessionaires. The views from the front yard take in the Cape Creek Bridge and picturesque Devils Elbow Beach as well as Conical Rock, part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Return to the junction of the Heceta Head Trail and the Hobbit Trail, and head out to Highway 101 and the Hobbit Beach Trailhead. Descend gradually on the wide Valley Trail in a spruce/hemlock forest with evergreen huckleberry in the understory. A short spur leads to a view over shallow Beaver Lake. Then you'll cross a truss footbridge over Blowout Creek and hike through a small sedge swamp. The trail passes two dark forest ponds, the second one with a small population of water lilies. When you reach the junction with the China Creek Trail, go right. The trail rises in secondary spruce forest with a carpet of feather moss and silk-moss. The China Creek Loop passes over a ridge crest and switchbacks down six times under older spruce trees to cross a footbridge over China Creek. At a junction with an unofficial trail, keep left to hike above a sedge swamp and descend to another footbridge over salmonberry-verged China Creek in a grassy opening.

Here, make a right at the junction with the Valley Trail. Follow a sandy trail into a rhododendron/huckleberry/salal thicket shaded by shore pines, and bear right at a false junction. Pass above a deep gully carved by China Creek, and reach the campground entrance road for Washburne State Park. Turn left, and walk out to Highway 101, which you'll cross (carefully) to enter the day use area. A paved trail takes you through a picturesque woodland of twisted shore pine and Sitka spruce to reach the parking area.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash at all times
  • Campground, restrooms, picnic tables, interpretive signs

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hike It Baby by Shanti Hodges
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Central Oregon Coast Range Trails by Irene & Dick Lilja
  • 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 Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon’s Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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.