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South Depoe Bay Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to North Point from Scenic View Area, Depoe Bay (bobcat)
Coast Guard cutters in Depoe Bay Harbor (bobcat)
On South Depoe Bay Creek (bobcat)
The loop using Depoe Bay City Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Depoe Bay TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: King's Banquet Table
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • High Point: 125 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Depoe Bay’s harbor, a small inlet connected to the ocean by a lava-walled 50-foot-wide chasm, is billed as the “smallest harbor in the world.” Beginning in 1937, a series of improvements deepened and widened the little bay so that boats could float at low tide. A short walk takes you from the town’s ocean front to the harbor and then, a nice surprise, up a densely forested creek. To make a loop, you’ll return along a bluff above the shoreline. Depoe Bay also promoted itself as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” and you complete the loop at the state parks’ Whale Watching Center at the north end of the Depoe Bay Bridge. If you want to keep walking from this spot, see the Depoe Bay Hike.

Depoe Bay is named for “Depot” Charley, a Tututni (Lower Rogue River) Indian whose family was forcibly removed north to the vast Coast Indian Reservation, now the much-reduced Siletz Indian Reservation; Charley had been allotted the land that is now the site of the town.

If you’ve parked on the west side of Highway 101, cross the street and begin walking east on Bay Street, the street just to the north of the Depoe Bay Bridge. You’ll pass along the side of a hill and descend to take a steel staircase down to the community hall. After crossing North Depoe Bay Creek, turn right to walk along the harbor seawall. You’ll get a good view across to the entrance channel and the Depoe Bay Bridge. A sign notes that a scene from the 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed here. Past a fish cleaning station, you’ll enter Depoe Bay City Park.

Follow a gravel track past a spillway with a fish ladder on South Depoe Bay Creek. Cross the creek over a wide wooden bridge and walk the lawn past a picnic shelter and play area. In the far corner of the park, you’ll see a sign for the South Depoe Creek Nature Trail. A gravel trail leads into a coastal wood of Sitka spruce, cedar, alder, and hemlock. The slowly flowing creek meanders over a sandy bottom to the left. Salmonberry and elderberry form dense thickets and skunk-cabbage erupts along the stream. At a junction, keep left: this will be your return spot for the larger loop.

In an alder bottomland, keep left at the next junction to cross the creek on a footbridge. Bear right at a high bench (or table?), passing large stumps. Recross the creek, and pass a secluded but rather sturdy picnic table. The path passes under an arch of mossy elderberry limbs, while violet, hedge-nettle, and false lily-of-the-valley bloom trailside in the spring. Close the loop, and then go left at the next junction.

You’ll be ascending a stepped trail in a dark secondary forest. The path dips into a gully and rises to Indian Trail Avenue. Go right, and then make a sharp left to descend Schoolhouse Street. You’ll pass the city hall, an old elementary school, and its whale statue before reaching Highway 101. Head right about a block, and then carefully cross the highway to Heiberg Street. Hike up Heiberg to Coast Avenue, and turn right. In two blocks, you’ll see a sign at a set of steps denoting the Depoe Bay Scenic View Area. A bench in a salal thicket offers views to Depoe Bay’s North Point and south along the lava rock shore to a small cove. At the bottom of Coast Avenue, you can find a path that leads past the Channel House to Highway 101. Cross the Depoe Bay Bridge to the Whale Watching Center. In general, gray whales migrate south in from Arctic waters in December and January and return north in April and May. However, a population of whales feeds off Oregon’s central coast most of the summer, so there’s a chance of seeing something here most months of the year!


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Open to the dawn to 10:00 p.m.
  • Play area, picnic shelters, interpretive signs
  • Restrooms inside Whale Watching Center
  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

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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.