Top Seven Coastal Trails on the Pacific Coast

From Sun­set Cliffs to Cape Ara­go, some of the best hik­ing trails run along the coasts of Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton. Here are sev­en must-hike trails along the West­ern coast.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach, Wash­ing­ton
The hike on this beach could be one of the most gor­geous walks you will ever take. Sit­u­at­ed on the Wash­ing­ton coast, this stretch of sand fea­tures tide pools, sea stacks, and head­lands, all sur­round­ed by coastal forests. This eight-mile hike round trip starts at the trail­head near the fish hatch­ery on a new­ly refur­bished part of the trail. You’ll even­tu­al­ly cross bridges and board­walks as you descend deep­er into the Olympic Nation­al For­est, Even­tu­al­ly, the sand will dis­perse. After walk­ing anoth­er mile you will arrive at Point of Arch­es, a mile-long parade of rocky sea stacks. Be sure to check in at the ranger sta­tion for park­ing and per­mits.

Ecola State ParkEco­la State Park, Ore­gon
This Ore­gon State Park has a net­work of trails includ­ing an eight-mile seg­ment of the Ore­gon Coast Trail, and a two-and-a-half-mile his­tor­i­cal inter­pre­tive route called the Clat­sop Loop Trail. Whichev­er you choose, you’ll encounter tide pools, surfers, elk, bald eagles and drift­wood bleached white by the sun and the salt water. Views are breath­tak­ing and be sure to watch out for migrat­ing whales in the win­ter and spring.

Lost Coast, CaliforniaThe Lost Coast, Cal­i­for­nia
The Lost Coast is so named because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of putting a road through, and even walk­ing over the cliffs and the beach below is a slow-go. For­tu­nate­ly, there are some trails along the coast­line that will get you down to the beach where the sand is both soft and rocky at points. The trail stretch­es 25 miles, from Mat­tole Beach in the north to the vil­lage of Shel­ter Cove in the south. You can walk small stretch­es of the trail in an after­noon or grab your back­pack and take your time. Be sure to watch the tides and the weath­er, because both can put a damper on your hike if you don’t pay atten­tion.

Point ReyesPoint Reyes Nation­al Seashore, Cal­i­for­nia
Just a 90-minute dri­ve from the city of San Fran­cis­co in near­by Marin Coun­ty is Point Reyes Nation­al Seashore. After cross­ing the Gold­en Gate Bridge, you’ll find your­self wind­ing through farm­land with dairy cows and folks sell­ing organ­ic milk by the side of the road. All along the road the trails are marked, and there are plen­ty of them; the nation­al seashore has about 150 miles of hik­ing trails, so there’s a path for every lev­el of hik­er. If you’re up to it, con­sid­er hik­ing the Toma­les Bay Eco­log­i­cal Reserve, a 9.5‑mile trail with 482 acres of salt marsh and tidal flats con­sist­ing of pick­le­weed, arrow grass, gum plant, salt­bush, and salt grass, as well as plen­ty of birds includ­ing Osprey. This is only one of the trails at the nation­al seashore, so if you have a month to wan­der the shores of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, this is the place to be.

Salt Point Bluffs State ParkSalt Point Bluffs Bluffs State Park, Cal­i­for­nia
The panoram­ic views of this 20-mile trail will take your breath away. Pound­ing surf, mas­sive kelp beds, and open grass­land forests can be enjoyed by hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, and camp­ing. The trail boasts six miles of rugged coastal trails that lead to the ocean. Sand­stone from these bluffs were used to make the streets of San Fran­cis­co back in the 1800s. The weath­er in San Fran­cis­co is always unpre­dictable, and even more so along this trail, so pack for cold and wet weath­er even if the sun is shin­ing as you set out for your hike.

Cape FlatteryCape Flat­tery, Wash­ing­ton
This trail is found at the fur­thest north­west tip of the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States and is a won­der to behold. It starts on a grav­el road, and quick­ly leads into a for­est and then onto a board­walk so that hik­ers won’t be stuck in the mud. Make sure you check in at Washburn’s gen­er­al store for a per­mit, which is run by the Makah Tribe. This area is one of the most pop­u­lar on Wash­ing­ton State’s Olympic Penin­su­la and this trail, while short at 1.5 miles, is worth run­ning into a few oth­er hik­ers to enjoy this coastal beau­ty.

Tillamook HeadTillam­ook Head, Ore­gon
Like many trails in this area, the Lewis and Clark expe­di­tion was here and the men were awestruck by the grandeur of the Pacif­ic North­west. Upon arriv­ing at Tillam­ook Trail, Clark mar­veled, “I behold the grand­est and most pleas­ing prospect which my eyes ever sur­veyed.” For the best hikes at Tillam­ook Head, it’s best to start at the Indi­an Beach pic­nic area, which is clear­ly marked. After walk­ing 1.2 miles, you will find an area for back­pack­ers with open sided shel­ters and bunk beds. You will also pass a World War II bunker cov­ered in dark green moss, and even­tu­al­ly, end at an aban­doned light­house nick­named “Ter­ri­ble Tilly.” You can return the same way, fol­low­ing some switch­backs that will take you past Clark’s favorite view­point.