The Oregon Coast Trail is a 382-mile trek that follows the Oregon coastline between the Columbia River and the California border. The trail hugs the coast for most of the way but occasionally opts for nearby roads to avoid uncrossable rivers and other obstacles.
There’s a dead-end section southwest of Coos Bay that takes you through Sunset Bay State Park, Norton Gulch, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park.
On Saturday, November 4, Nat and I set out for Sunset Bay. We decided to start there and then work our way down to Shore Acres. We didn’t plan to go all the way to Cape Arago – next time!
Sunset Bay State Park
After we arrived and shouldered our backpacks, we discovered that the trail was closed at Sunset Bay. The signage didn’t specify what was wrong, but we suspected a landslide.
So we jumped back in the car, headed south, and then parked alongside the road to continue the trail there.
Quick note: If you do start at Sunset Bay, you will eventually meet up with Cape Arago Highway and hike alongside the road for only a couple hundred feet before winding back into the forest. This is due to a large cove blocking the direct path. You can see the tiny section where the dotted trail line intersects with the solid road line just under Norton Gulch Group Camp on this map here.
Norton Gulch Trail
This side trail is an easy 1/4 mile hike in and out to see the large cove. You’ll pass by the trailhead as you hike on the side of the road.
The surrounding forest is beautiful and the trail is well maintained.
You’ll cross a small wooden ramp over a creek before turning down into the rocky cove.
You can feel the squishy sand underneath all of the colorful rocks. If you’re into rock collecting (like we are), then you will love this cove.
If you look up along the sides of the cove you’ll notice where the ground has eroded. It’s cool but also a bit scary!
We explored the cove for a while longer before heading back. On the way up the trail we spotted some mushrooms – can you see the other mushroom hiding in the background?
Once we met back up with Cape Arago Highway, we continued south alongside the road until we followed the trail back into the forest. From here we had one last great view of the cove.
Oregon Coast Trail
The trail here is wide, perfect for larger groups, and surrounded with lush undergrowth and large old trees.
We found more mushrooms along the way – some with crazy shapes and color patterns!
The trail weaves through the forest, opens up to gorgeous views of the ocean, and then curves back into the forest again. We kept right at all intersections to hug the coastline and make our way down to Shore Acres.
Shore Acres State Park
We wanted to explore the beautiful Japanese-style garden at Shore Acres, so we hiked through the parking lot and turned left at the public restrooms. The garden entrance is just past the gift shop. The trail continues to Cape Arago on the other side of the enclosed observation deck.
The holidays come early here at Shore Acres. Every year starting around the end of November they put on a huge lights show. Crews decorate every tree and shrub in sight and set up lighted figurines. Tourists can walk through the garden in the evening to enjoy the bright lights and holiday cheer. The show runs through the end of December.
The garden is beautiful during the day and the rest of the year, too! It’s well maintained and filled with flower bushes and several large trees throughout. It’s surrounded by the forest, making it feel secluded.
Toward the back of the garden there’s a large pond with pretty rocks and ornaments. You might even be able to spot a few fish swimming around.
Follow the gravel pathway to walk all the way around the pond.
We sat under the gazebo and had a quick snack before making our way back to the Oregon Coast Trail.
Although we didn’t hike all the way to Cape Arago or have the opportunity to start at Sunset Bay, we still enjoyed the part of the trail we did explore. This dead-end section of the Oregon Coast Trail is very easy to hike and offers beautiful views of the ocean. Makes for a perfect day hike with family and friends.
Once we reached the road on our way back to the car, we noticed a huge Amanita muscaria – a toadstool! We’re not sure how we missed it on our way in, but we’re glad we spotted it coming back!