The weather can be temperamental and surprising at the Coast, but if you have gear, water, and a snack, these hikes can be great in sun, wind or rain, or sometimes all three! The hikes represent various levels of difficulty and most of the trails require a drive of 5 to 20 miles from the Lighthouse Inn. Some of the trails require a day use fee, but others are free. I have tried to provide some dunes, beach and forest trails. They are all great hikes and are listed in no particular order.
Ten miles south of the Lighthouse Inn. This is a nice, family-friendly trail that takes you through dense coastal forest (with salamanders and mushrooms at certain times of year), with views of Carter Lake, ending up at majestic dunes that seem endless. It is a great place for Frisbee, throwing a football, or simply running and launching onself into the air at the top of the dune and landing in soft, warm sand.
Sweet Creek Falls.
Take a drive up Hwy 126 to Mapleton and enjoy this nice outing. The trail is fairly easy and family-friendly, but not wheelchair or stroller accessible. There are two trailheads along Sweet Creek Road, the first is the Homestead Trailhead (3.5 miles out and back) located about 7 miles down Sweet Creek Road. For a shorter hike, drive a bit further down to the Sweet Creek Trailhead. This is a very popular trail and often parking is limited at the Homestead Trailhead.
Siltcoos Lake Trail.
Take the 101 about 7 miles south to the Siltcoos Lake Trailhead. This trail is about 4 miles and is listed as “difficult” by the National Forest Service. This trail has two loops that meet ½ mile up the trail. The South trail ends at the edge of Siltcoos Lake with one primitive campsite and outhouse. The North trail also ends at the Lake edge and has five primitive campsites and outhouse. A ¾ mile trail connects both trails. There are other, easier trails along Siltcoos River (on the west side of the 101).
Oregon Dunes Day Use.
Thirteen miles south of the Lighthouse Inn. Dunes, dunes and more dunes! You can stay all day, or ten minutes. The shortest “hike” is actually a wooden deck-like walkway where you can look over the dunes toward the ocean. If you just want to see the dunes and are short on time, you can take some nice photos from this point. However, if you want to get the full effect of the different microenvironments offered on a longer hike, the Day Use area is a great place to do so. There is a 4.5-mile dune/beach loop that traverses sand, dune grass and seasonal dune “lakes”, heads southwest toward Tahkenich creek (where if the weather is right, you can stop for a quick dip), then heads west through an evergreen forest towards the Pacific. The trail hits the beach and sends you back north for about 1.5 windy miles and then east, across more scrub, trees and finally the dunes and back up to the beginning. Budget at least a half-day for this loop hike.
Drive north of the Lighthouse Inn about 10 miles and you will find Carl Washburne State Park. This park houses a campground and a day-use area. A nice loop trail from here traverses coastal forest, meadows and the beautiful coastline. The famous “Hobbit Trail” comprises one section of this loop. Start at the Day Use area, take a look at the trail sign and follow the trail through the picnic area, across the 101, and south through some nice coastal forest. Cross the 101 again and follow the signs toward the Hobbit Trail. Once you have reached the beach, turn north again for a traverse back to the main parking lot of the Day Use Area.