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Samuel Boardman: North Island to Arch Rock Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

China Beach and Deer Point from Thomas Point, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor (bobcat)
North Island from Thomas Point (bobcat)
Natural bridges, Samuel H. Boardman SSC (bobcat)
Miners Beach Falls, Samuel H. Boardman SSC (bobcat)
Miners Beach (Secret Beach), Samuel H. Boardman SSC (bobcat)
Coast iris (Iris douglasiana), Arch Rock (bobcat)
Arch Rock and Yellow Rock, Samuel H. Boardman SSC (bobcat)
The Oregon Coast Trail route at the north end of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: North Island Viewpoint TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Arch Rock Trailhead
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1080 feet
  • High Point: 365 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in sections
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

One of the most scenic stretches of the Oregon Coast extends north of Brookings for 12 miles in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The sampling described here takes in natural arches and bridges, numerous stacks, cliffs, coves, and headlands, and a couple of secluded beaches. Just because it’s on the coast doesn’t mean it’s an easy outing. This section of the Oregon Coast Trail undulates in and out of gullies and descends to sea level at China Beach before climbing steeply back up again. Note that there are user trails that intersect with the Oregon Coast Trail throughout this corridor, so keep aware of where you are.

Samuel H. Boardman was the first superintendent of Oregon State Parks, and a major advocate for preserving coastal beauty for the public. He was also the founder of the town of Boardman in Morrow County, Oregon.

Note that there are several options here:

  • As a one-way car shuttle: 5.6 miles
  • One way as described and then return walking next to the highway: 8.4 miles
  • Return using the trail without side trips (low tide only): 10.3 miles

Hike into the spruce forest and, at the top of the rise, make a left. Switchback down into a sword fern gully, and reach another junction. Go right above a creek, and reach an open meadow where large-leaved seawatch blooms. Follow the somewhat indistinct trail as it heads up to the left and then out to Thomas Point. North Island is the large rock offshore, and you can also see back to the Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon at 345 feet. Make a little loop under the stunted spruce trees to get a view north to China Beach, your next destination.

Head back to the junction just 10 yards in from the North Island Viewpoint Trailhead. Find the trail leading down to the left: This is the Oregon Coast Trail going north. Make five switchbacks down in dark spruce forest, ignoring a tread leading off to the left. Make a traverse on a rooty path, and cross two small creeks among sword fern, salmonberry, elderberry, and salal. The trail approaches Highway 101 as you pass under larger Sitka spruce. Turn a sharp left and drop steeply, switchbacking three times. Walk down a creek, and start getting views of the array of sea stacks off China Beach. Pass through a thicket of coyote brush to reach the eroded bluff above the beach. You’ll have to scramble down here , and then begin walking north on the beach, first crossing China Creek. You can see Thomas Point jutting out to the south as you approach the cliff promontory that makes China Beach impassible at high tide. A small waterfall splashes on to the beach. Round the point, and look to your left where there’s another waterfall on Spruce Creek. A post to the left of the creek designates the Oregon Coast Trail where it climbs back up again.

Cross the rocks and sea-battered driftwood to take the narrow trail back up through coyote brush. Make seven switchbacks, and then cross a footbridge in a dark spruce wood. There are another 11 switchbacks before you traverse up a grassy slope to a wide pullout on Highway 101. From here, you’ll get a view of the rugged headland at the north end of China Beach. Reach another pullout, and take the trail leading into spruce/salal/sword fern woods. A steep spur trail heads left to the headland; if you take it, there’s a view into the next cove north. On the main trail, you’ll begin hiking below the crash barrier on Highway 101 where it crosses Horse Prairie Creek. From the top of a cliff, get a view into the cove and also of the culvert pipe that carries Horse Prairie Creek. The trail drops away from the highway and crosses an alder slope. Reach a junction with a very rooty user trail that leads very steeply down the slope. This precipitous path takes you down to two natural bridges. You can stand on top of the first one, while the larger bridge also acts as an outlet for the enclosed cove behind. These bridges were once entrances to a sea cave whose roof collapsed, forming the cove. Scramble back up to the main trail, and go left. You reach a viewing platform that looks down into the cove giving a head-on picture of the natural bridges (Note that these are only two natural bridges of seven in the immediate area). Then come to the parking area for the natural bridges, and hike the short distance to the next parking area, the Thunder Rock Cove Trailhead.

A plaque here honors Dr. Sam Dicken, founder of the Oregon Coast Trail. Hike into a forest with some large Douglas-firs, and take a trail leading left out to a small headland. Switchback down twice to get views of Thunder Rock Cove, also known as Seal Cove, another collapsed sea cave which has its own arch guarding the entrance. Reach a junction for the “loop trail,” and go left to switchback down three times. At another junction, keep left to get views of another natural bridge and a smattering of offshore stacks. Keep left at the next junction to hike through salmonberry thickets, hike up and then switchback to a junction, where a rough sign tells you to go left to the “beach” and “falls.” You’ll make a sharp left below Highway 101 and pass above a culvert pipe. Drop to cross a lush seep and then the footbridge over Miner Creek. Go left at the next junction to descend to Miners Beach (a.k.a. Secret Beach), with Miner Creek’s waterfall pouring over smooth rock onto the sand.

Hike up from the beach, and stay left at junctions. Make seven switchbacks up through salmonberry thickets, and cross a small rise to reach a footbridge below Highway 101. The trail then turns out towards the ocean again, switchbacking down twice along Deer Point through salal and irises that bloom in the spring. Get views of stacks out to sea, including Black Rock and Leaning Rock, and head north to get a sighting of the large forested block of Spruce Island. The trail rises again and switchbacks above Highway 101 before descending to the Spruce Island Viewpoint, from which you can’t see much because of the brush that has grown up.

From the pullout, make a traverse to get a view of the collection of stacks to the north. Drop down a ferny gully above a cliff-backed beach, and then ascend again past some large Sitka spruce. Cross the head of a gully before descending to the Arch Rock Trailhead. Go left to hike towards Windy Point on a paved loop trail along a fence that takes in stacks to the south. At the end of the point, irises bloom in spring, and you’ll get a view of Arch Rock itself. Walking back, you’ll be impressed by a massive stack in the cove to the north.

If you’re not doing a car shuttle, you have two choices. Hike back the way you came, eliminating some of the side trips, or halve your distance by sticking to Highway 101 and sections of the Oregon Coast Trail that run parallel to the highway. This is not as awful as you might think: There’s a decent gravel tread on the safe side of the crash barriers, and in the short stretches where there are no barriers, there is ample room.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms, picnic tables at Arch Rock Trailhead
  • Pay attention to tide tables: China Beach cannot be hiked at high tide.

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
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • From Sea to Summit: The R.A.D. Guide to Hiking in Curry County, Oregon by the R.A.D. Outdoor Club
  • 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 Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop

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.

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