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Odd and Crusty at Manzanita: Where the Oregon Coast Soars to 1600 Feet

Published 01/17/22 at 6:40 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Odd and Crusty at Manzanita: Where the N. Oregon Coast Soars to 1600 Feet

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – A green, forested wonder, draped in dense tree cover, with the lilting sounds of the waves discernible at just about every turn. Even at some of the outer edges you can hear the soft pleasantries, shifting in timbre like a cajoling form of white noise. Around you is the distinct architecture of Laneda Ave., the main drag thoroughfare, with dark brown cedar echoing the earthy ambiance of its more natural sides. (Above: Cube Rock)

Manzanita, meaning “little apple” in Spanish, is really more like a little forest park up against the sea.

This tiny town on the north Oregon coast is an especially engaging one, with loads of surprises cloistered in its various corners. Ancient legends of crashed sailing ships and rumors of hidden treasure mix with murky fir trees and a rugged kind of hipness. Manzanita's architecture is almost urban in moments, like a more rustic Northwest Portland, yet definitely backwoodsy and beachy overall. In the end, it's simply a truly laidback place full of nooks and crannies to explore, both geographically and culturally.


It's generally the beach that matters, where you find yourself beneath the awe-inspiring gaze of Neahkahnie Mountain, exploring miles and miles of pristine sand that end up at the extraordinary wildlife watching opportunities of the Nehalem Bay Spit. Soft sands slowly run into the rocky, boulder-laden section up against the mountain, at the tip of which one stunningly bizarre shipwreck took place over 100 years ago: the rumor-filled demise of the Glenesslin.

That looming mountain is host to a bevy of finds. The Neahkahnie overlooks alone provide some of the best viewpoints along the entire Oregon coast.

Want to go higher? Take that hike up ol' Neahkahnie and wander some 1600 feet up the trail from 101 to the top of Neahkahnie to catch unforgettable views. Along the way, little viewpoints and benches let you ogle the increasingly aerial angles on the Pacific. See more Hiking Neahkahnie Mountain: Manzanita's Marvel, Oregon Coast's Landmark

Around the Neahkahnie Overlooks, there are plenty of tales to tell (such as the building of the overlooks and a small mystery there). Just north of them, things get wilder and more craggy. Look for a gravel pullout not quite a quarter mile north of the main viewpoint. It’s not far from the main trailhead, either.

From here, you wander down a slope via a trail that's rather secretive all by itself, walking through a placid grassy plain that's at times reminiscent of Ireland. Most years this is all covered up in thick foliage. Sometimes it’s chopped down into a flat plain.

You eventually come to a sudden drop into the ocean, where the cliffs have an abrupt end, looking straight down some 50 feet into boiling, tempestuous surf. There are no barriers here to keep you from falling, so stay well clear of the edge.

Look around and you'll take in something truly extraordinary. Intricate, jagged basalt structures rise on either side of you, covered in greens, foliage and trees at their tops, but hosting strange shapes that resemble the wasteland ruins of the original "Planet of the Apes" flicks. To the south, the basalt resembles crumbling, aged columns, as if now their contours no longer even vaguely held the lines carved into them by those who constructed this mythical cathedral. Instead, they plunge into a swirling mass of angry sea in a half circle of a writhing, churning bay that is hungry to further destroy the columns' aesthetics. It's creepy and beautiful all at the same time.

There are times this path is so overgrown you can’t get there anymore, however.

Walk a bit north and you’ll encounter a massive hole in the Earth that suddenly appears: this is Devil’s Cauldron. Luckily, now it has some barriers surrounding it. This isn’t a place to be trifled with. Even a local lost their life here in recent years.

Essentially, the Cauldron is a semi-circle of rock that juts out from the cliffs, plunging a few hundred downwards. A bench here provides scenic splendor to relax by. As you wander around you’ll also see Cube Rock: a gargantuan structure that looks like a Roman column made by giants. Nearby is the mysterious, cajoling and pointed edges of Pulpit Rock.

From here, it’s a mile hike down to Short Sand Beach, then to more trails ambling over Cape Falcon.

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