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Siltcoos River Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Siltcoos River estuary from the Waxmyrtle Trail (bobcat)
Pacific Labrador tea (Ledum glandulosum), Siltcoos Lagoon (bobcat)
Oxbow Lake on the Lagoon Trail (bobcat)
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias), Siltcoos Lagoon (bobcat)
Shore pine woods, Waxmyrtle Trail, Siltcoos River (bobcat)
Looking north to Sea Lion Point, Waxmyrtle Beach (bobcat)
The trails at the mouth of the Siltcoos River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Stagecoach TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Siltcoos River Mouth
  • Hike Type: In and out + loops
  • Distance: 5.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 90 feet
  • High Point: 135 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The lovely looping Siltcoos River winds through a landscape of forested dunes and deposits itself in the Pacific Ocean at a secluded beach, which is off limits to ATVs on either side of the river mouth. The main trail here is the Waxmyrtle Trail, which will take you above the river, offering a pretty vista over its estuary, and on through shore pine woods and a marshy deflation plain to reach the sea. You can do two other short loops to bookmark this hike and make a decent outing of it.

  • Waxmyrtle Trail to the Siltcoos River Mouth and back: 4.2 miles
  • Lagoon Trail (interpretive loop on oxbow lake): 0.7 miles
  • Chief Siltcoos Trail (hike in dunes thickets): 0.8 miles

Begin your excursion by taking the Waxmyrtle Beach Trail, which leads past the kiosk on the left side of the parking area. Pass through a thicket of salal and evergreen huckleberry before reaching the entrance road. Cross the road to begin the Lagoon Trail. There’s a boardwalk to begin the walk and interpretive signs all along the loop to explain the ecology of the “lagoon.” In fact this oxbow lake, once a meander in the Siltcoos River, was created when the beach road was constructed in the 1930s, effectively straightening the Siltcoos and creating this backwater. Two notable invasive species, both from South America, have thrived in this environment. One is the nutria (Myocastor coypus), a large aquatic rodent that was imported into Oregon in the 1930s to be reared for its fur; you may notice their runways through the sedges. The other unwelcome resident is an aquatic plant from the Amazon, the parrotfeather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), which plays havoc with the ecosystem by shading out native algae that are at the bottom of the food chain.

At the junction that closes the loop, keep left. The trail passes along the edge of the forest with views out to the oxbow. In the wet season, it can be flooded in places, so watch your step! Shore pine, waxmyrtle, and willow form a canopy, with spiraea and slough sedge lining the lagoon. Look for great blue herons, buffleheads, and grebes. If you’re lucky, you may also see otters gliding smoothly along the forested edge of the backwater, which is slowly filling in and converting to marsh and meadow. Campsites in the Lagoon Campground appear to your right. The trail loops around and runs along the east channel of the oxbow, and then reaches the campground road. Hike to your right about 40 yards, passing the campground host, and pick up the trail again. Cross a boardwalk in a marsh of sedge, willow, and waxmyrtle to reach the loop junction and go left out to the road.

Now go straight to cross the bridge across the Siltcoos River (This is the entrance to the Waxmyrtle Campground). Look for herons on the river bank and kingfishers swooping to branch perches. Turn right at the sign for the Waxmyrtle Beach Trail. This rooty path leads above the dark still shore pine-shaded Siltcoos. You’ll see campsites to your left before you come to a staircase of over 25 steps. Now you’ll get views out to the river’s big loop through its estuary and on to the ocean breakers. The trail drops to some pole-rail fencing where the trail was destroyed by river erosion. Make an abrupt left here to take a wide track out to the Waxmyrtle Beach Trail-Siltcoos Jeep Track Junction. It’s about ¾ mile to the beach from here. Make a right at the sandy jeep track, and hike gently down through a shore pine wood. The track levels among more stunted Sitka spruce and pine in the deflation plain, an area scoured of sand by prevailing winds. Here, you’ll see the large shallow bodies of water in Waxmyrtle Marsh, another good birdwatching opportunity. The foredunes to the right are off limits to humans during the snowy plover nesting season (March 15th to September 15th). The road hooks left to cross the foredune area, low ridges of sand bound in place by introduced European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria). Reach the beach area, and begin the short half-mile hike north to the Siltcoos River Mouth. During the plover nesting season, you cannot bring dogs here, and you must stay on the wet sand only. Sanderlings scoot in the swash, constantly feeding. The mouth of the river is constantly shifting. In summer and early fall, it may be possible to ford the mouth at its shallowest point and walk north about 1/3 mile to cross the foredunes to a day use parking area popular with ATV riders. You can return up the road to the Stagecoach Trailhead. In winter and spring, you may have to swim across the Siltcoos River Mouth in order to make a big loop of it.

If you’re doing this as an in and out, return from the beach on the sandy vehicle track. Keep right at the Waxmyrtle Beach Trail-Siltcoos Jeep Track Junction, and complete a loop by hiking up a bluff and around the east side of the Waxmyrtle Campground. Pass a gate, and reach the campground road to go right over the Siltcoos River to return to the Stagecoach Trailhead.

One last little loop remains. The Chief Tsiltcoos Trail heads into a tunnel of evergreen huckleberry opposite the trailhead. At a junction, make a left to rise along the crest of a former dune now colonized with shore pine, Sitka spruce, salal, waxmyrtle, and huckleberry. Spurs lead left down to the Driftwood Campground. You’ll also get a glimpse of the ocean from here. Undulate along the dune crest, which narrows considerably. Go right at all junctions to drop down through invasive Scots broom on a stepped trail. Then gently rise through a moss-draped huckleberry thicket to the loop junction, where you’ll make a left to reach the road and trailhead.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Siltcoos Area Trails (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
  • 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 tables
  • Campgrounds nearby
  • Wet sand access only on the beach, no dogs: March 15th – September 15th (Snowy plover nesting area)

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Oregon’s Central Coast Range Trails by Irene & Dick Lilja
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • Oregon’s Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout

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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