BOARDMAN SCENIC CORRIDOR
It had been a very long time since I’d spent much time on the southern Oregon coast and usually July would not be a good time to go there. Normally when it warms up in the interior valleys the coast fogs in. And while the valleys are roasting and toasting the coast is usually cold and foggy. Around July 10th I noticed some cool weather forecast for the next weekend so my wife and I decided to take a chance and spend July 15 – 18th on the coast.
For quite some time I’ve wanted to hike the coast trail through Boardman Scenic Corridor and have never had an opportunity when the weather was good. Boardman Scenic Corridor lies North of Brookings 3 or 4 miles and stretches some 15 mile north along Hwy 101. (http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_77.php )
This section of the coast is known as the “banana belt” as it the driest and warmest place on the Oregon coast. Almost everyone traveling this section of the Oregon coast has stopped off to visit at least one or two of the many scenic viewpoints. You may remember Arch Rock or Natural Bridges Cove. This area has always impressed me and I was very excited to get a chance to really see all of it.
The Oregon coastal trail connects all the scenic viewpoints and can easily be done as a series of short hikes or as one continuous hike. Out of roughly 15 miles of trail, I managed to hike 12 or more miles of it over 3 different days. I did not do it all in one direction either as I had my wife with me to shuttle the car and we wanted to spend at least a little time each day enjoying the beaches. For the purpose of this blog I’ll start in the South and work my way North as I show you some places you’ll want to put on your own list of future vacation destinations. The trail does a fair amount of ups and downs as the road and viewpoints are often 200 – 400 feet above the beaches. There are sections of it that are so densely wooded that it’s like walking through a tunnel.
I chose to skip Harris Beach, which is a great place to camp only about a mile north of Brookings ( http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_79.php?md=pic ), and start at Lone Ranch Wayside. This beach is one of my favorites in the entire 300+ mile coastline, and offers a very scenic variety of sand, rocks, tide pools (at low tide) all in one place. It is located about 3 miles north of Brookings and on the south side of Cape Ferrelo.
The coast trail starts at the north end of this beach but is not well marked. As Cape Ferrelo is a grassy upland bluff. Just look for one of several trails running through the tall grass. I chose a trail near the end of the bluff and at this point the trail climbed rapidly and in less than a mile I was on the bluff, almost 300 feet above the beach.
Cape Ferrelo offer a wonderful view to the north and south. There were still wildflowers blooming in the tall grass which made it even more beautiful. I love the upland grasslands as there is so little of this kind of thing along the Oregon coast. The wide, unobstructed views give it a spacious feeling you don’t get elsewhere. In most places, the dense foliage (yeah, just a fancy name for brush and blackberries) tend to limit your view of the shoreline and I’m often off the trail to try to find a place where I can see. From the most westerly point of the cape, it’s only about a mile to the Cape Ferrelo Wayside. Most of this is open grassland but as you get near the wayside (parking lot) you start getting back in to more trees and shrubs again.
The next section of the trail goes north to the House Rock viewpoint. The section is a mix of forested areas and wonderful grassland vistas of secluded beaches. Please keep in mind that as this section of the coast is drier, it also grows some very fine poison oak. The main trail is free of it but many of the wooded areas have a considerable amount in the brush just off the trail. Be careful jumping off the trail to see that obscure ocean view as you could take home an itchy rash as a memoir of your hike. As you approach the viewpoint you pass through some great Sitka spruce forests and as you start up the hill you pass through a clear cut with daisies and foxglove this time of the year.
From the House Rock viewpoint north to Whale’s Head Beach the trail passes through a very dense section with a lot of salal and patches of Sitka spruce. There are sections ov vegatation like a tunnel completely obscuring the sky. While the forest is beautiful, don’t expect many good views until you get near the beach. It’s about 3 miles to the beach and I ran out of time about a half mile before I got there as it was beginning to get dark and my car was at the House Rock viewpoint.
Early one morning I stopped off at Whale’s Head Beach and took a few shots from a bluff just above the beach. I wanted to spend more time at Indian Sands so I didn’t get a chance to walk the beach and see the sights. This secluded beach is about a mile and a half long and would make a great place to stop off and walk a while.
From Whale’s Head Beach through Indian Sands to the Thomas Creek bridge viewpoint is around 3 miles but you’ll hike a good deal more than that as the whole Indian Sands just begs to be explored. The trail climbs steadily around the cape just north of the beach. Most of this part of the trail is pretty dense but there are a few good viewpoints.
The Indian Sands area is a place you won’t want to miss as there is some much to see. There is a small sand dune with colorful sand outcroppings, rocky cliffs with an arch rock hole, grassy upland meadows full of wild flowers this time of the year, a waterfall that drops into the sea and much, much more. In places there are some dramatic views of the rugged coastline both north and south. On a clear day you can really see a ways.
The trail through Indian Sands isn’t really well marked but that hardly matters as you’ll find it again at the north end of the last dune. From there it hugs the sides of a narrow valley before disappearing back into the forest again. Most of the rest of the way is forested and in places you’ll feel like you must have gone down a hobbit hole. There are a few places you can get some views.
You will want to check out a view of the Thomas Creek Bridge, Oregon’s highest. There really isn’t a good viewpoint. I did see some steep tracks heading down toward the beach but it looked very difficult. I’m just guessing that at low tide one could get a wonderful view of Thomas Creek and the Bridge from the beach. I’m not so sure there is much if any beach at high tide.
I did not hike the section of the trail from the North side of Thomas Creek Bridge up to China Beach. As I was doing this in short sections, I was actually hiking south and stopped at China Beach. It was unfortunate that I was there at high tide. Several people were leaving due to the beach really shrinking at that time. This is a very magical place I’ll go back to at low tide when I have more time.
From Thomas Creek Bridge to Arch Rock picnic area is a really spectacular 2 to 3 mile hike along one of the most dramatic sections of the Boardman Corridor. There are numerous views of this rugged section, a secret beach, Natural Bridges Cove, Thunder Rock, Deer Point, Spruce Island and last but not least Arch Rock. With a menu like that, plan to spend some time just taking in all the breathtaking views. Again remember that there is poison oak in the brush just off the trail so don’t get tempted to go check out that prefect viewpoint without looking closely for poison or you may have made a “rash” decision….
Is there more?
There sure is! Just north of Arch rock you’ll leave the Boardman Scenic Corridor but it doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful. Myers Creek Wayside and the turnout just north of there are some wonderful beaches. Pistol River parallels Highway 101 for a mile before turning out to sea and provides a very interesting stretch of beach. The large rocks jutting from the sand can be seen in every photo book of Oregon. This is a great place to walk the wide sandy beach and take in the views. Both sunset and sunrise are incredibly beautiful as you will see:
Pistol River area just South of Myers Beach is very beautiful too.
To the north of the beach looms Cape Sebastian. There is a scenic viewpoint about a half mile off the highway that will give you a view of Pistol River beaches from over 900 feet. I did not have time to do the 5-mile round trip hike to Myers Beach and back but it does offer a lot of protection on an windy day.
There is much more to see and do in the Brookings Gold Beach area. Jet boat rides up the Rogue River are popular in Gold beach and Brookings is not far from the Oregon section of the Redwoods. Both will take a day easily so be prepared.
There’s a lot to be offered on the southern Oregon coast and I hope you’ll get a chance to explore it for yourself sometime. If this is giving you the bug, you might check out a copy of Bonnie Henderson’s Day Hiking Oregon Coast. ( http://www.amazon.com/Day-Hiking-Oregon-Coast-Done/dp/1594850267/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281328925&sr=8-1 )This book will give you a pretty good idea of what each section of the trail is like and what the difficulty might be. It makes a good companion to William Sullivan’s Oregon Coast & Cost Range. (http://www.amazon.com/100-Hikes-Travel-Guide-Oregon/dp/0981570119/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281329058&sr=1-1) Both are worth looking at and by the time you finish you’ll be planning your next trip to the coast.
Enjoy and keep looking for the beauty all around you!