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Heading out to hike the Pacific Northwest’s coast? You’re in for a real treat! This area packs a punch with its variety of hikes, ranging from leisurely beach strolls to more challenging forest treks.
Think of walking beside the ocean, with the sound of waves as your soundtrack, or wandering through forests that feel like they’ve been straight up lifted from a fairy tale—That’s the PNW for ya!
From Washington’s rugged Olympic Peninsula down to California’s scenic shoreline and Oregon’s rugged beaches in between, here are some of the best coastal hikes in the PNW! If you are going on a road trip through Oregon make sure to read our favorite stops in Oregon.
1. Hole in the Wall hike at Rialto Beach
After navigating some driftwood and admiring the crashing waves to your left, you’ll happen upon the finale, a Hole in the Wall. A natural sea arch that presents a dramatic frame of the vast ocean beyond. While you can do this trail anytime, you’ll, ideally, want to walk out here at low tide to explore tide pools and easier passage to the hole.
2. La Push Beaches
La Push Beaches, are also located in Olympic National Park. And here, you’ll get a “3-4-1” deal! There are three beaches, two require a hike to get to. While their names are unimaginative, their beauty makes up for it!
- First Beach is the most accessible of the three, with no hike required to reach its expansive shoreline. It’s essentially right next to the parking lot and offers stunning views of sea stacks and the chance to spot whales offshore.
- Second Beach requires a short, 0.7-mile hike through lush forest, opening up to one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the Pacific Northwest. The beach is framed by towering sea stacks and a natural arch, creating a secluded paradise for hikers.
- Third Beach offers a longer, 1.3-mile hike (or longer if you choose to continue) through dense forest, leading to a more secluded stretch of sand. This beach is known for its peace and tranquility, away from the crowds.
If you grab the proper permits, you can actually camp overnight on the shores of Second or Third Beach!
Looking for more Oregon stops?
- Best Oregon Fruit Loop Stops For Families
- Best Campgrounds in Oregon for Kids
- Best Hikes With Kids in the Rogue Valley (Oregon)
3. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse Trail is a standout hike that delivers more than its name might suggest. Located at the southwestern tip of Washington State, this trail offers a dash of history, natural beauty, and stunning ocean views!
The trail to the lighthouse is an easy 2-mile round trip. The path winds through coastal forest and opens up to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.
The lighthouse itself, standing since 1856, is one of the oldest on the West Coast.
Although it’s not always open for tours, you’ll still get a great view of it and the crashing waves below from the trail. From the dramatic coastline, you’ll get the chance to spot whales during migration seasons too!
Don’t miss out on taking a small detour to Waikiki Beach to get another perspective of the lighthouse.
4. Hike the Tillamook Head Trail
Offering views of one of the most splendid lighthouses on the Oregon Coast, the Tillamook Head Trail is a must for anyone visiting Seaside.
It’s wedged right between Seaside and Cannon Beach and is a great option for hikers coming from either location.
At just over six miles round trip, it isn’t going to be the most difficult day hike, but you can count on at least a few hours to enjoy all the scenery and comfortably complete the trail.
It’s worth noting that Terrible Tilly (the lighthouses’ nickname) is off on an island in the distance. So you’ll get views of it, but there’s no chance of reaching it!
More PNW Articles:
- 2-Day Olympic National Park Itinerary with Kids + Map
- 11 Adventures for Kids in Olympic National Park
- 9 Incredible Olympic National Park Hikes For Kids
- 7 Easy Waterfall Hikes in Columbia River Gorge for Kids
5. Hike to Cape Falcon
One of the most popular trails in the area, the Cape Falcon Trail, is a 4.6-mile hike that is truly a stunner. A seasonal waterfall halfway through the hike and a meadow with a view at the end make this one of our absolute favorites.
If you’re particularly interested in exploring, there are some additional branching trails once you’ve reached the end of the official trail. These will take you in different directions along the coastline, offering opportunities to get to unique viewpoints and explore some of the interesting coves to the north.
When you’re done, rest your feet by sitting on Short Sands Beach and watching some surfer tear it up in the chilly water.
6. Hike Gods Thumb
Looking north from the popular Oregon Coast town of Lincoln Beach, you may notice a rock formation at the end. Many admire it from afar, not realizing that it’s actually one of the coolest hikes on the Oregon coast.
The God’s Thumb Hike is a 4-mile out-and-back hike that provides stunning views over Lincoln City Beach. You’ll understand why it’s called God’s Thumb once you get there!
7. Hike the Heceta Head to Hobbit Beach Trail
The Hobbit Trail, quite fittingly named like a popular Lord of the Rings character, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to scenery. A gorgeous beach, a historic lighthouse, and sweeping ocean views are all in store on this trail.
At just under 4 miles round-trip, this is a great side excursion for adventurers interested in a great hike that won’t take all day. The parking lot here can get pretty full, so plan for a weekday or early morning to make sure you get a spot.
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8. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
This stunning spot features vistas of sea stacks sprinkled along the coastlines and the rushing tides hitting the cliffsides.
This is one of the more popular hiking areas along the Oregon coast, but it’s much loved for a reason! The entire corridor is incredibly scenic, and there are some trails that aren’t as crowded if you’re looking for a quieter hike.
The most popular and arguably most beautiful is the Natural Bridges area. There’s an easy viewpoint, or if you’re daring enough, you can slide down the steep rocky trail to get closer. This is very sketchy, so take care!
The Lone Ranch beach area offers hikes and beaches with fewer crowds if you want to get away from it all.
9. Salt Point to Stump Beach
The Salt Point to Stump Beach trail along California’s rugged Sonoma Coast might not be the most famous hike in the PNW, but that’s part of its charm.
As you traverse the less than 4-mile round trip along the Salt Point to Stump Beach trail, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean, with opportunities to explore tide pools, rocky coves, and kelp-dotted waters.
Keep an eye out for the unique tafoni formations – intricate, honeycomb-like sandstone sculpted by wind and water. But the best part? Visit Salt Point State Park from December through April to see an epic display of whales migrating. The easy trail might take you all day because you’ll be too busy staring off shore!
10. Point Reyes Trails
There are so many trails in Point Reyes National Seashore it’s hard to pick the best. But two of the coolest happen to be at the outer end of the point. Head to Chimney Rock Trail for epic, rugged coastal views and loud, blubbery elephant seals yelling offshore.
Just down the road from there, you can hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse for a more epic view, chances to see whales, and even a quick peek in a retired lighthouse.
BIO: Nina and Garrett are two PNW-obsessed travelers who love hanging out in the outdoors. You can catch them exploring the PNW in their trusty 1974 VW Bus named Lucy and helping fellow travelers explore the West Coast on PNWisforAdventure.com