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Whalen Island Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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The view from the trail. Cape Lookout is on the far horizon. (Carol King)
Hiking the dune forest on Whalen Island (bobcat)
All kinds of kids love to hike in the mudflats (cfm)
The trail route around Whalen Island (not a GPS track) bobcat Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Whalen Island TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Sand Lake Estuary
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 75 feet
  • High point: 50 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Situated on the coast between Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout, the Clay Meyers State Natural Area at Whalen Island was part of a small family farm for decades until it was purchased with lottery funding in 2000. This unique area has tremendous diversity. Centered in the Sand Lake Estuary, Whalen Island has grasslands, vast mudflats, white sandy beaches, a coastal forest, and dunes. The short easy loop hike will take you through all of these zones with plenty of places to stop and watch birds, have a picnic and play in the sand. If the weather is good, the kids will love this hike, and it is amazing to witness the tide changes in the Sand Lake Estuary. The only drawback to this hike is the nearby ORV area on the north shore of the estuary. The drone of the sandbuggies - loudest at the apex of the loop- may be irritating to purists. A county campground is located next to the Whalen Island Trailhead.

This description takes you counterclockwise around the island, which is connected to the mainland by an expanse of tidal marshes to the north. Take the trail next to the gate across from the restrooms. A path leads right to a viewpoint over the Lillian Parker Craft Wetland. The marshes are named after the mother of the two sisters - Kathleen Craft Shaw and Karen DeRungs - who sold the land to the State of Oregon. Back on the main trail, enter thickets of evergreen huckleberry, salal, rhododendron, and bracken shaded by Sitka spruce, shore pine, and Douglas-fir. The rooty trail undulates along the low ridge of a former sand dune before reaching a viewpoint which looks out on the marshlands of the Sand Lake Estuary and the green hills to the east of Cape Lookout. As you hike around the west shore of the island, you'll see various spurs leading down to the beach and get views out to the mouth of the estuary.

Hike up a higher sandy ridge shaded by shore pines, keep right at a junction, and then descend a sandy slope that blooms with beach lupine and dune goldenrod in spring and early summer. A spur leading right allows beach access. You can explore far out onto the sand flats at low tide. Later on, another spur takes you to a railed viewpoint near a concrete foundation. Eventually, you'll come to a map sign and the junction with a trail leading to the county campground. Stay left to return to the day use parking area.


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Guidebooks

  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

More Links


Contributors

  • CFM (creator)
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.