Rain Forests of the Pacific Northwest

Oswald West State Park
Trip Practicalities

Attractions: Hiking, nature study, wildlife viewing, surfing, fishing, geology, photography

Hours/Season: Overnight (except in winter); day use year-round

Fees: Charge for camping

Picnicking: One picnic area on east side of US 101; a walk-in picnic area overlooking Short Sand Beach is reached via a trail from US 101.

Camping: Walk-in sites (with tables and rest room) are available (wheelbarrows provided for 0.25-mile paved walk).

Access: Off US 101, 10 miles south of Cannon Beach


Rub Aladdin's lamp and you couldn't ask for a better 4-mile stretch of coast. Within the 2,474 acres of Oswald West State Park, this spur of the Coast Range has incomparable geology, ancient forest, majestic views, Cape Falcon, Neahkahnie Mountain, Arch Cape, and Smuggler's Cove. Short Sand and Necarney creeks merge at the sea at Smuggler's Cove, where surfing is an option. Take the forest trail to Cape Falcon, where you'll want to linger for the scenery. Don't cancel your hike on account of a misty rain, because the green cathedral of trees will shelter you and let you feel the pulse of what nourishes this rain forest.

The park name honors Governor Oswald West (1911 1915), whose leadership preserved Oregon's beaches for public use. With 13 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail wandering through the park, consider the walk-in campsites as a base since they are centrally located in the park and near the creeks and beach. They are popular, however.

Plants and Wildlife

Lush vegetation comprised of huckleberry, salmonberry, and salal bushes surround the campsites. This rain forest has the typical tree species and the usual large numbers of sword ferns and representatives of other fern species. A mammoth shell of an ancient tree is visible along the Cape Falcon Trail. Be on the alert for nurse logs, fallen trees that are decomposing and often provide nourishment for young trees to spout and grow from them. As the log rots away, the trees seem to hug a now nonexistent entity, roots above ground reaching down into the rich humus.

Stellar jays, kingfishers, and hairy woodpeckers are numerous near the campsites. Water ouzels, or dipper birds, are seen at the creek areas, while forest birds include Wilson warblers, chestnut-backed chickadees, and winter wrens. A herd of Roosevelt elk roams the area near Mount Neahkahnie. When walking in the rain forest, keep an eye out for banana slugs on the trail. One doesn't want to step on these large, slippery snails without shells. Seals, sea lions, and whales are often spotted from the cape trail viewpoint.

Cape Falcon Trail

The 1.8-mile trail to 750-foot-high Cape Falcon starts just beyond the Short Sand Beach Picnic Area. As you near the tip of the cape, take the left spur where the trail divides. This goes out onto a vegetated knoll, where you can wander among paths through very thick bushes to overlook points on this very scenic coast. The sound of the surf is background music. Smuggler's Cove is below, with Point Illga to the south. The right spur on the trail is the continuation of the Oregon Coast Trail. It goes another 5.6 miles through dense woods over Arch Cape, crosses the highway, and then descends through ancient forest via an old mail route to the town of Arch Cape.

Neahkahnie Mountain Trail

Neahkahnie Mountain is the north coast's only peak to rise directly above the sea. To climb to its 1,661-foot summit from the campsite and creek area, follow the signs 1.3 miles through woods and then through the Neahkahnie Punchbowl to the highway. Legends of shipwrecks and buried treasure abound in this vicinity, and there is some evidence that Norsemen visited here in AD 1010. Cross the highway and continue uphill on a moderate grade for 2.5 miles to the summit where one has a wide-open spectacular view of Nehalem Bay and the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, you can see for 50 miles. The Oregon Coast Trail continues south another 1.8 miles through lush forest with views of ridges of the Coast Range to intersect again with US 101.

Preserve the pristine quality of the two streams and their environs near the campground in Oswald West State Park; do not dig for treasure in this park without a permit. The trails up Humbug and Neahkahnie mountains have many switchbacks; do not take shortcuts and contribute to causing erosion. It is a fine thing to keep, this rain forest wilderness. It is full of questions yet unasked, entities undiscovered.

Other coastal Oregon state parks with good rain forest trails nourished by rainy winters and fog-dripping summer days are Ecola State Park (day use) and Cape Lookout (day use and camping).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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