That Beachy, Forested Wilderness Between Manzanita and Cannon Beach
(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – How can such a small space be so full of wide open spaces?
That roughly ten-mile stretch between Cannon Beach and the low-key, quiet ultra-hipness of tiny Manzanita speaks volumes of fun and fascination. From the viewpoints that seem to go on forever, to thick forests of green with looming mountaintops watching over them, to bundles of rocky nooks and crannies to plenty of soft, sandy beaches, it's an intricate Oregon coast oasis of the untamed and rugged in between two very civilized worlds.
If you started at its northern end, it would likely mean it all begins just a tad south of Cannon Beach, where a series of famed pullouts allow magnificent views of the watery world. Most obvious is Silver Point, with its rather elegant, roundish concrete and stone walls, where so much opens up in front of you. Yet just below sit some of the most fascinating wave action on all of the Oregon coast. Some reef here causes a part of the current to run parallel to the surfline, instead of to and from it. It sometimes looks like something alive is racing back and forth.
Even at night this place is wondrous.
But there's really two things going on here, and the best part is the rather secret beach just below Silver Point, which is accessed by a half-mile walk along the sand from one of the southernmost accesses of Cannon Beach – a tad beyond the Tolovana area. Here, you'll find plenty of wild sights to fill your camera with, including cliffs with odd grooves in them, bundles of rocks that look like they have green hair, to even a sea cave that only pops up now and again.
Farther down the road you'll encounter Hug Point and its myriad of captivating wonders, like more caves, a road going around the point (if tide allows you access) and a waterfall, among numerous other things.
Other highlights include Arcadia Beach, where soft sands and some tide pool action make for varied means of repose and relaxation.
Three miles from the edge of Cannon Beach you'll find Arch Cape, which essentially starts where Hug Point ends and then sort of stops at a rocky cliff that is the precursor to Cape Falcon, making for about a mile worth of stunning, usually very unpopulated sands.
Across the highway, the hiking trail going over Neahkahnie Mountain begins – one of the more strenuous and lengthy chunks of unspoiled trails along the Oregon coast.
Then you've come to the Arch Cape Tunnel along Highway 101, after which you quickly enter a dense, lush forest. The sea disappears from view here but rather dramatic small mountaintops take over, slightly reminiscent of very old, magical parts of Europe.
Along this way, you'll find the pathway to Short Sands Beach, a major haunt for surfers. There's a suspended footbridge here – a major attraction – and all sorts of interesting wave action in this cove.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Highway, to the east, that trail to Neahkahnie Mountain continues. Other trailheads dart off in various directions here, including the wild and rugged ones to Cape Falcon and some precarious but powerful viewpoints.
You soon emerge from the forest to look down on the sea and even peek down into Short Sands. Another trail goes down to the cove from a viewpoint here, taking a mile to get there. Yet another trailhead across the highway allows you to wander up to the top of 1600-foot Neahkahnie Mountain.
Soon, very soon, it's more stunning viewpoints, including the famed ones at Neahkahnie, overlooking Manzanita and a vast sea of wonders and wild lighting effects that the clouds can create when just the right kinds of breaks happen.
From here, it's down to Manzanita and to more civilization, albeit at a much slower pace than most places along the coast.
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