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Neahkahnie Mountain Loop Hike ( Level B 2.5)
Start point: Short Sand South Trailhead
End point: Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint
Hike Type: Lollipop loop
Distance: 8.0 miles
High point: 1,631 feet
Elevation gain: 2300 feet
Meet at Target / SW 185th.
(note, optional pickup point at Sunset Transit center if traveling by transit. Contact leader)
We will hike at a moderate pace and take breaks hourly.
The Oregon Coast Trail crosses Neahkahnie Mountain from Short Sand Beach and descends to Manzanita. This hike, mostly within the boundaries of Oswald West State Park, takes you from the majestic old growth around Necarney Creek to the clifftop views of the Devils Cauldron; then you cross meadows frequented by elk to hike up Neahkahnie Mountain to a spectacular viewpoint. You'll descend to the South Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead. From there, there's a mile and a half of road walking, including a mile and a quarter along the shoulder of busy Highway 101 (There is a path - sort of - for pedestrians), but the scenic views make the loop worthwhile.
From the south end of the parking lot, switchback down under large Sitka spruce and western hemlock. The lush understory is composed of sword fern, salmonberry, salal and red huckleberry. At a wide trail, go left and head down Necarney Creek, which runs along bedrock here in a rich, old-growth forest. Keep left at two junctions. Huge spruces sprout leathery polypody ferns. At the Oregon Coast-Necarney Creek Trail Junction, signed for the Elk Meadow Trail, go left; there’s an eight-foot in diameter spruce on your right. Cross a narrow, swinging footbridge over the creek and come to a junction. There is access to Short Sand Beach to the right, but head up to the left for the Elk Flats Trail (also the Oregon Coast Trail). Switchback and traverse up along a deer fern-lined trail. You can walk under the roots or around a spruce that straddles the trail here. Switchback three more times on a rooty trail. The trail levels and then drops through salal under Sitka spruce. Switchback down twice, cross a trickling brook and then head down in secondary forest, crossing an old road bed before rising to a clifftop meadow. A signed spur leads right through salmonberry and elderberry to a clifftop view of the Devils Cauldron, a cliff-rimmed inlet where the ocean swells churn frothily into the nascent sea caves below (There's some controversy as to whether this maw is the real Devils Cauldron—it could be a cove just north—or "Treasure Cove."). A solitary stack known as Cube Rock stands picturesquely in the swells. In spring and summer, look for nesting pelagic cormorants on the cliffs of the Devils Cauldron. The view north gives you a great perspective on the sea arch at Cape Falcon. Back on the main trail, ascend on a muddy track to where the well-worn Overlook Trail leads right to a clifftop viewpoint of Smugglers Cove and Cape Falcon. Turn right back at the main trail and head up to a pullout on Highway 101, the North Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead.
Cross the highway and start up the Oregon Coast Trail. The first section of the trail is cut through an otherwise impenetrable thicket of salal along a telephone line corridor. A wide variety of flowers bloom here each spring including Columbia wind flower, trailing blackberry, candy flower, coast fawn lily and, of course, the ever present salal. As the trail switchbacks higher in spruce/hemlock woodland, there are views of the ocean, including a look north to the stunning coastal cliffs at the Devils Cauldron and Cape Falcon.
The trail enters the forest near the top of the meadow. You'll soon cross a small creek of iron colored water and then the trail slabs across the north face of the mountain through carpets of sorrel and trilliums in season. The trail continues to switchback higher. The north, higher summit of Neahkahnie Mountain is heavily timbered and not accessible by trail. The trail winds around the south side of the northern summit into a woodland of moss-covered spruce. Next, it ducks under a low log and enters a section of very dense, dark forest completely devoid of undergrowth. You'll drop into a saddle, and then begin climbing to the south summit. There's a small switchback and finally you'll come to a rare, open rocky area, the Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint. There's a very steep and potentially dangerous use path up to a peak, but the view to the south is really good from here. You'll see Neahkahnie Beach, Manzanita and the coast all the way to the Nehalem Bay Mouth.
From this rocky vantage point, switchback down in hemlock/spruce woods and traverse to a road that leads to a communications tower up to the right. The trail crosses the road and makes six switchbacks to an open view of Nehalem Bay. Then, descend in five more switchbacks in a salal/salmonbery thicket and reenter secondary forest. There are three more switchbacks down to the South Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead on a gravel road. Head down the road (Road 38555, which is rimmed by alders). Pass a private drive on the right and then some sprawling, mossy spruces after leaving the state park area.
Reach Highway 101, and cross it to head south along its western shoulder (This shoulder is narrow in places and not really a trail, so take care). Cross Sunset Drive, and keep to the shoulder heading uphill to reenter the state park. Pass a pullout and note the manzanita bushes grow here and along the cliffs. At the next pullout, take a path next to a 1930s stone wall that borders the highway. Alder, spruce and salmonberry grow on the steep face above the ocean. At MP 41, there’s another pullout. The highway, carved out of the cliff face, drops above manzanita and spruce studded cliffs that are almost sheer. Pass more pullouts. At the last pullout where the stone wall ends, there’s an interpretive display. A use trail leads down from here to a point and then down farther. Continue walking along the highway shoulder to the North Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead and find the return trail leading down through Devils Cauldron Meadow.
For a short exploration at Short Sand Beach, turn left without crossing the swing bridge over Necarney Creek and reach the beach at Smugglers Cove. Cross Necarney Creek and then Short Sand Creek, which both enter the ocean at the same place. A trail leads up past Short Sand Creek into the picnic area. Head past restrooms and keep right. At a sign for the Elk Meadow Trail, go right and meander around to the Oregon Coast-Necarney Creek Trail Junction, where you can turn left to head up to the trailhead.
Registration is Closed
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