About nine miles south of the Highway 26/ US 101 junction, you’ll find Ecola State Park at the north end of Cannon Beach. Within the park there are several hikes and beach areas. Last summer I had the good fortune to hike to Crescent Beach and enjoy what turned out to be a gorgeous summer day.
The hike itself is pretty low-key. It’s 3.6 miles round-trip, in and out, so that’s less than two miles each way. A series of switchbacks lead you down with many different views of the beach below. At the end of the hike there’s a long switchback staircase that takes you to the beach.
You’ll find the trailhead just to the left of the bathrooms near the Ecola Point parking lot. There’s a series of steps at the beginning of the hike, making way into a beautiful forest. You’ll see spruce, alder, ferns, huckleberry, elderberry, salal, and lush native ground cover.
You won’t walk very far until you come to a service road that leads you to Ecola Park Road. That’s the road you took to get into the park. After walking next to the road a short distance, you’ll drop down onto the trail again. There may be elk or deer in the woods, so you may want to walk quietly and keep an eye out.
Almost immediately, you’ll get a view of the ocean. I remember thinking, “gosh, I thought the hike would be longer than this!” Then, I realized that even though the beach looked close, it was still pretty far away because of all the switchbacks. In the end, it was a lovely little hike.
I like to trail run, but most of this hike wasn’t runner friendly. It’s steep enough, often enough, that running would be dangerous. Still, you get a decent workout. Especially on the way back up!
All along the trail, you’ll see stands of old and second growth trees. You’ll hear birdsong. I’m not exactly sure what’s moving around in the brush, but I’m thinking maybe frogs and newts? I did catch a glimpse of a garter snake.
The beach itself is absolutely stunning. As it’s name implies, the beach is crescent shaped. There are some caves over to the right as you face the ocean. If you’re feeling brave, you can climb some of the rock formations too, but be careful! You should especially pay attention to high and low tide. You could be dangerously trapped in the inlets of the caves if you get caught by the high tide.
There are tide pools worth checking out. I’ve heard that you can actually walk to the beach at Ecola Point in low tide, and from there all the way to Indian Head beach, but that’s definitely impossible at high tide. If you’re not absolutely sure, I wouldn’t even try it.
If you head south on the beach, you can walk all the way into town. Cannon Beach is worth checking out while you’re in the area. It’s pretty touristy, but the beach is family-friendly and there are some terrific restaurants, shops, and galleries there. Keep in mind that walking into town would add some serious distance to your day!
A hardy crew from New Zealand carried umbrellas all the way down to the beach and back again, but boy, oh boy, what a great little setup!
The Oregon coast is often cool and cloudy in the summer, but this day was quite warm, and in fact, it was too hot to comfortably lay in the sun. Luckily, there was a big ole rock formation with a little bit of shade beneath it. This was the perfect spot to sit and eat lunch, read a book, and indulge in a snooze-a-thon. I had some pretty interesting views, just laying there on my beach towel. Up, down, and all around.
My sweet little spot:
That’s me, practicing my napping selfies. That’s one of about forty pictures. Also, it’s seriously cropped so I don’t look like a pinup girl! Do I look like I’m sleeping?
Later that afternoon, before heading back up the trail, I found a little trickle of ice cold waterfall and some native Indian Paintbrush. When you’re hiking or walking around Oregon, it’s always a good idea to look carefully all around you. You never know what you might see.
Any amount of time spent at Ecola State Park, anywhere in the park, is time well spent. Crescent Beach isn’t the easiest part of the park to get to, but it’s well worth the effort.