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Hiking Tillamook Head and Its Discoveries, N. Oregon Coast Icon Between Cannon Beach, Seaside

Published 04/14/23 at 5:12 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Hiking Tillamook Head and Its Discoveries, N. Oregon Coast Icon Between Cannon Beach, Seaside

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(Seaside, Oregon) – There's real American history on this north Oregon coast headland. It helped fight a war at one time, and over 200 years ago it became a monument to one of the most integral explorations of the early U.S. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of visitors, just a few decades ago it changed the landscape of Seaside rather drastically as well. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Tillamook Head is one gigantic monument to a lot of things, sitting snugly between the high-profile Oregon coast towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. It's where part of Lewis & Clark's troupe walked to what is now Cannon Beach to check out a beached whale. And it offers stunning views of the ocean, rock islands and the mysterious Tillamook Head Lighthouse a mile offshore.

Mostly, however, Tillamook Head is an exceptional hotspot for roughing it and hiking, with six miles of trail stretching over this wilderness of soaring trees and thick brush, with its summit at 1,112 feet. Some of it you can do in shorter bursts, but a lot of it takes a sojourn of almost four miles one way.


Hiking Tillamook Head is one of the more highly recommended deep explorations on the Oregon coast, with an elevation gain of 400 feet and numerous breathtaking views to be found on this cliff structure. In such places there are always hidden spots in the brush and forest. Indeed, there are the remnants of an old army radar bunker in the woods at some point along this magnificent trail.

About four miles down (one way from Seaside), you’ll find the ancient, curmudgeonly World War II bunker, a primitive campsite, and that view of the Pacific and the lighthouse nearby that will knock your socks off. Along the way, there’s a viewpoint noted by William Clark in his journals and so designated.

The old bunker was actually a radar station during the great war. About the length of a school bus, it's mysterious and a little spooky, like some old castle remnant. However, this one was anything but spooky in its day, actually the centerpiece to a much larger base that housed up to 100 men. Eight manned the radar station, known as call sign “Juliet-two, three,” or J-23. See more The Mysterious World War II Bunker Atop Oregon Coast's Tillamook Head

In early 1806, some of the Corps of Discovery left their Astoria-area Fort Clatsop and hiked over Tillamook Head. Imagine scrambling up this steep hill, with no trails visible, nothing to make your trek more comfortable in the least. They arrived at future Cannon Beach to look into getting some supplies from the beached whale local tribes were harvesting. The place is called Ecola Creek, the local indigenous word for whale.


Ecola Creek, Cannon Beach

These days you're luckier. There's even shorter routes to take rather than the full, four-mile route. Starting at the Cannon Beach side, begin your jaunt at Ecola Point in Ecola State Park and hike 1.5 miles to the parking lot at Indian Beach. Continue on another 1.5 miles from there and you'll get to Tillamook Head's point and see the bunker, find a primitive camping spot for hikers as well as enjoy breathtaking views of a rugged beach and the lighthouse.


Top of Tillamook Head

Round the bend of the point, and it's another four miles to the Seaside trailhead, past more incredible views, including the summit and a point Merewether Lewis wrote about.

If you take the Seaside trailhead, that side has a much steeper incline.

Tillamook Head was also responsible for adding 800 feet to the land at what is known as The Cove. See Gigantic Landscape Changes at One Popular Oregon Coast Town Over the Decades

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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