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Nehalem Spit Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Neahkanie Mountain from Nehalem Spit (bobcat)
Willows in a brackish pond, Nehalem Spit (bobcat)
Dunes, Nehalem Spit (bobcat)
Hobbit forest, Nehalem Spit (bobcat)
Bloody brittlegill (Russula sanguinaria), Nehalem Spit (bobcat)
Walking routes on the spit (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Nehalem Spit TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Nehalem Bay Mouth
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 25 feet
  • High Point: 20 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This hike takes you through three environments: beach, dune forest, and bayside tidal flats. You are sure to see some bird life and also the harbor seals that make this area their year-round home. This spit was also where many of the artifacts from the famous Beeswax Galleon shipwreck (c. 1650-1700) have been found although the wreck was soon followed by the tsunami from the last great Cascadia earthquake, around 1700, which redistributed galleon treasure over a much wider area than the spit itself; every so often something turns up although the galleon itself may have been buried by tsunami forces.

NOTE: Nehalem Spit is a Western Snowy Plover Management Area. Between March 15th and September 15th hike the wet sand only. No dogs are permitted on the beach on the ocean side of the spit. On the bay side of the spit, dogs traveling the beach must be leashed. See Western Snowy Plover and the Oregon Coast (Oregon Parks & Recreation).

Hike past the restrooms through shore/pine Sitka spruce thickets to the grassy dunes, from where you can get a view north to Manzanita Beach and Neahkahnie Mountain. As you walk south along the beach, little flocks of sanderlings will be foraging in the wash and gulls and sandpipers might be picking through the wrack line. In winter, look for jellyfish and the odd dead seabird that has washed up. The south end of the spit may be buried under a five-foot deep driftwood forest, transported out of the Coast Range on the high waters of the Nehalem and its North Fork during the wet season and piled there by stormy winter seas. At high tide, you may have to retreat to the dunes to reach the end of the spit. The Nehalem Bay Mouth itself is funneled by jetties.

There are several options for completing a loop. Hike along the riprap and pass the jeep road that runs down the center of the spit to the day-use area. This is one option for a return loop, especially at high tide or during the wet season. Continuing to the end of the jetty, there’s a brackish lake to the left and a wide, flat beach which is completely covered at high tide, but which serves as a haul out spot for seals when the tides are out. There are views across the bay to Brighton Wharf and crab boats might be out checking pots. Seal faces will peer at you from the calm waters. Continue walking along the shore line of the bay. The sand is soft, but at low tide, you can continue all the way around the bay side of the spit before reaching the boat ramp, whence you will walk back along the road to the day-use area.

For an experience of the inner spit, you can cut into the interior from one of the paths that lead to the bay shore. Deer trails and a horse trail lead down the middle of the peninsula, but these are mostly under water during the wet season. You will encounter hobbit-like woods of stunted spruce, pine and wax-myrtle as well as sedgey bogs and willow thickets. Eventually you will reach the horse corrals and the day-use area or, if this option proves too wet for you, head west to find the jeep track, which is a less interesting, but drier, and stroll past thickets of Scots broom.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 state park day-use fee
  • Snowy Plover Management Area restrictions apply between 3/15 and 9/15: no dogs on the ocean beach; hikers must keep to the wet sand area; dogs must be leashed on the bay side beach.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and the Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • A Hiker's Guide to the Oregon Coast Trail by David E.M. Bucy & Mary C. McCauley
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.