hikes3-0609
Image: Larry Gloth

Just you, the Pacific, and the setting sun at Cape Lookout.

The Coast

Salmonberry River

Hiking Trail

Easy Stand by Me fans, this is the hike for you. Unique among coastal treks, the Salmonberry River trail doesn’t boast commanding ocean views or barking sea lions. Instead, it follows sixteen miles of deserted railroad tracks across watery expanses, over ancient steel bridges, through pitch-dark tunnels, and—most intriguing of all—through the tiny old railroad town of Enright, which consists of two cabins and a water tower that ran dry long ago. Trains roared through the hamlet as recently as 2007, when a fierce winter storm washed out the tracks. Today, as wilderness slowly reclaims the lonely structures, the area is blissfully devoid of any train—or human—traffic. —Bart W. Blasengame

ROUND TRIP: Up to 16 miles NEAREST TOWN: Wheeler DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 62 miles PACK: 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland; Tillamook County Water Trail Map at tbnep.org; a headlamp (to navigate pitch-black train tunnels)

Cape Lookout

Hiking Trail

Easy Most hikers at Cape Lookout State Park take the Cape Lookout Trail—a five-mile out-and-back journey to the end of the peninsula. Those in the know, however, head south from the parking lot on the Oregon Coast Trail. Here, a series of sharply descending switchbacks leads hikers to the waves below. Once you’ve popped out of the woods, two miles of deserted beach in the shadow of the cape’s rocky finger await you. (If you want to skinny-dip, we’ll look the other way.) BWB

ROUND TRIP: 4 miles NEAREST TOWN: Tillamook DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 82 miles PACK: Moon Handbooks: Oregon; $3 day-use fee, USGS Sand Lake map

Banks-Vernonia State Park Trail

Biking Trail

Easy Timber-laden locomotives used to roar along this twenty-one-mile stretch of train track, but today it’s all yours for the cruising. The gently graded trail, which is paved in some parts and gravel in others, links the rural towns of Banks and Vernonia, and its multiple access points allow families to tailor outings to just about any distance. As you wind through rolling hills dotted with historic farmhouses, there’s no shortage of postcard views, including one from the top of the Buxton Trestle, an eighty-foot-high structure a few miles outside of Banks that will have you itching to ring your bell as you pedal across it. BMB

TRAIL DISTANCE: Up to 42 miles NEAREST TOWN: Banks DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 25 miles PACK: Mountain Biking Oregon_; Banks-Vernonia State Trail map at oregonstateparks.org145.php

Tillamook Head

Hiking Trail

Moderate After stumbling upon this 1,130-foot coastal mound in 1806, William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) dubbed the viewpoint “Clark’s Point of View.” These days the peak is known as Tillamook Head, but one thing hasn’t changed: the spectacular sight of the coast from the top. The climb—which winds past a World War II–era bunker and affords glimpses of “Terrible Tilly,” a decommissioned lighthouse—is challenging. But once you’ve toughed out the three-mile ascent from Indian Beach (a hot spot for surfers), you’ll be rewarded with a boundless panorama of the great blue Pacific and the cold-water adventurers who ride its waves. —BWB

ROUND TRIP: Up to 6 miles NEAREST TOWN: Cannon Beach DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 72 miles PACK: Moon Handbooks: Oregon; oregonstateparks.org/park188.php; $3 day-use fee

Tillamook State Forest

Biking Trail

Hard You could just lace up your shoes and hit this trail, which starts at the Roger’s Camp Trailhead, on foot. But with its bevy of roots and rocks, the loop through the Tillamook State Forest seems almost custom-made for the two-wheel adventurer. Brief, intense climbs of up to 775 feet are followed by stomach-tickling drops. If you blow a tire or just plain tucker out, at least you’ll have pristine pit stops like 30-foot-tall University Falls to gawk at while you catch your breath. —BWB

ROUND TRIP: 10.4 miles NEAREST TOWN: Forest Grove DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 39 miles PACK: Mountain Biking Oregon; Tillamook State Forest Visitor Map & Guide at oregon.gov/ODF

Cascade Head

Hiking Trail

Moderate Rare are the places where seals, eagles, elk, and owls converge. Cascade Head, a 1,200-foot-tall highland overlooking the Salmon River and the Pacific Ocean, is one of them. In fact, this 270-acre area has such a diversity of natural wonders that it was designated as a United Nations Biosphere Reserve in 1980. The Nature Conservancy also owns land here that happens to be one of only five remaining habitats in the world for the endangered Oregon silverspot butterfly. You’ve got a steep three-and-a-half miles to the top of the head, but it’s worth the cramp-inducing climb to experience this truly wild stretch of coast. (Note: Dogs aren’t allowed, and upper portions of the trail are closed to hikers through July 15 to protect baby butterflies.) —BWB

ROUND TRIP: Up to 7 miles NEAREST TOWN: Lincoln City DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 86 miles PACK: Oregon’s Best Wildflower Hikes; US Forest Service Trail Map No. 1310 at www.fs.fed.us/r6
or USGS Neskowin map