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Cape Sebastian to Pistol River Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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View to Meyers Point, Pistol River State Park (bobcat)
Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Cape Sebastian (bobcat)
Looking north to Gold Beach, Humbug Mountain, and Cape Blanco from Cape Sebastian (bobcat)
Churning chasm, Cape Sebastian (bobcat)
Cave Rock, Meyers Creek Beach (bobcat)
Intertidal fauna, Meyers Point, Pistol River State Park (bobcat)
The Oregon Coast Trail route down Cape Sebastian to the mouth of the Pistol River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Cape Sebastian South TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pistol River Mouth
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 870 feet
  • High Point: 710 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in sections
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The first part of this hike takes you down the forested slopes of 700-foot high Cape Sebastian almost two miles to Meyers Point. Then you’ll hike 3 ¼ miles to the mouth of the Pistol River. There are two state parks here: the Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor and the Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. You’ll traverse above Cape Sebastian’s rugged rocky shoreline, hike the beach at Hunters Cove, and then visit some of the most accessible and iconic sea stacks on the Oregon Coast before arriving at the mouth of the Pistol River. Those wishing for a shorter hike can turn back at any time or do a beach hike from one of the other trailheads along Highway 101. NOTE: The trail is brushy in places, and there are patches of poison oak, so long pants are a good idea. The beach portion of this hike should not be attempted during high tide.

From the trailhead, on a clear day, you have a 90-mile view – north to Humbug Mountain and Cape Blanco and south to Meyers Beach, Crook Point, and Point St. George in California. Hike past the Oregon Coast Trail post at the west side of the parking area into thickets of coyote brush, evergreen huckleberry, salal, sword fern, and stunted Sitka spruce. Ascend through a dark spruce tunnel to a bench, getting views north to Humbug Mountain and beyond. Pass a colorful lichen-branded sandstone face, and look down to the wave-dashed rocks below. Then switchback down five times before making a traverse to begin getting views over the ocean from a slope of shore pine. Switchback, and get a view to Hunters Island, just south of the headland. Make four more switchbacks down to a seep along the trail where irises bloom in the spring. Other wildflowers that bloom here include blueblossom ceanothus, coast lily, paintbrush, round-leaf violet, and brodiaea. From the switchback at the seep, a sketchy user trail leads right through a barrier of miniature spruce trees down to a finger of sandstone between two violent chasms. Here, as elsewhere along Cape Sebastian’s shoreline, the sandstone is honeycombed with tafoni pockmarks, a type of weathering caused by salt crystals infiltrating the rock and weakening it. Back at the main trail, continue hiking south to get views of Hunters Island, Meyers Beach, the stacks north of Pistol River, and Crook Point. The trail rises briefly, and then switchbacks down to a footbridge and a grassy slope of lupine and strawberry. Take advantage of a rope-assisted descent to the beach at Hunters Cove.

The “hunters” at Hunters Cove were 19th century seamen who slaughtered sea otters, which have the densest fur of any animal. The otters were extinct in Oregon by 1907 and have never permanently returned. On your left, you’ll see thin layers of rock tilted upward. These are alternate layers of sandstone and shale in a formation known as turbidite, which resulted from layer after layer of debris flows off an ancient river delta into the deeper ocean. Past the exposed turbidite, there’s a landslide slope and a rock-strewn section of the beach. Just offshore is Black Rock, with Hunters Island in the background. Crossing Egans Creek, you’ll see Highway 101 up to your left where it descends to a two-mile stretch of sand dunes between here and the Pistol River Mouth. Cave Rock, with its arch, is right offshore. Begin hiking through an area of large and imposing sea stacks, some right on the beach, and cross Meyers Creek, which may require a ford. Look for nesting Canada geese pairs on the inshore stacks from winter through spring. Look for pairs of black oystercatchers perching on the rocks. Above Highway 101, you can see an exposed slope of green serpentinite.

Round Meyers Point. Among the stacks offshore, you’ll see an arch opening directly below a pyramidal stack. In the tidal pools below the rock formations, you can see sea stars, anemones, and mussels at low tide. The last two tall stacks seem permanently stranded on the beach near the Pistol River North Trailhead. Cascading clumps of sedum (Oregon stonecrop) spill from the higher ledges of these stacks. This is a good turnaround point if you don’t want to hike all the way to the Pistol River Mouth. Otherwise, keep hiking south along the low dunes, the largest expanse of sand dunes on the southern Oregon coast. Pass the large vegetated block of Henry Rock where McKinley Creek forms a pool. Next you’ll be hiking along a spit almost a mile long until you reach the Pistol River Mouth. To your left is a lagoon, sometimes called Lola Lake after a local resident. If you’re doing a car shuttle, you can turn in from the Pistol River Mouth to the Pistol River Mouth Trailhead when Lola Lake is separated from the river by a sand causeway. If this is not the case, you’ll have to hike back and around the lagoon.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Cape Sebastian day use open 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range 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
  • 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
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • Oregon’s Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.