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Captured Moments / Ecola State Park

Published on June 23, 2020

Captured Moments / Ecola State Park

In the third installment of ‘Captured Moments,’ my featured photo takes me back to a favorite hike on the Oregon coast.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a special place for my wife and me. It’s where we honeymooned after our wedding in September of 2008, and since have vacationed in the area numerous times. There’s just something about the combination of rocky, jagged coastline, cool salty air, and the surrounding temperate rain forest that makes one feel as if they can breathe—without constraint.

On our honeymoon trip to Cannon Beach, one morning, while looking at a local map, I discovered a park located about four miles north of town called Ecola State Park. After a bit of reading about the place, I decided to hike some trails accessible from the north side of the park at the Indian Beach Day-Use Area. So I loaded up what little bit of gear I had and headed for Ecola.

As I headed north on the drive out of town, I knew I was in for something special, as almost immediately, I entered a temperate rain forest filled with massive moss-covered trees and giant ferns. The drive itself was something else, as I wound my way through a twisting narrow road barely wide enough for two cars to pass. A few minutes later, I arrived at the Indian Beach Day-Use area and was stunned to find a beautiful isolated beach that I later learned is a popular local surf spot.

"Legend has it that some members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition walked this same route on their way to search for a beached whale that was somewhere near Cannon Beach."

As I set off on foot, I decided to take Cannon Beach Trail on the way up to the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Viewpoint (at the top), and then descend back down on the narrower Clatsop Loop Trail. The hike up is a groomed gravel path about the width of a car, and although not difficult, allows one to take in the beauty of the temperate rain forest. Legend has it that some members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition walked this same route on their way to search for a beached whale that was somewhere near Cannon Beach. It’s easy to imagine them slogging through a forest that probably looked much the same now as it did then. It was a bit creepy, and on a few occasions, so dark and quiet under the canopy that I became paranoid as if being watched by some ancient creature.

Upon making it to the top after about 1,000 feet of climbing, I came to an area called Hiker’s Camp that serves as a rest stop and also has three cabins available for overnight use by hikers. A few hundred yards further down the trail is the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Viewpoint that rewards those that have made the trek to the top with cliffside views of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse that sits about a 1.2 miles out to sea. Also nearby is a WWII aircraft spotting bunker used to guard against a possible air invasion by Japan during the war.

After taking in the sites, it was time for my descent back to Indian Beach in what turned out to be my favorite part of the hike. It’s here, on the Clatsop Loop Trail, where I snapped the photo featured in this Captured Moment. After descending about a half a mile on tight and twisty overgrown singletrack, I emerged into a clearing where I stopped and took the photo. What I love about the view in this picture is how you can see parts of Indian Beach below. At the same time, in the distance (between two trees, in the center of the photo), you catch a glimpse of some of the Oregon coast’s famous sea stacks, including Ecola Point, and Haystack Rock further south off of Cannon Beach.

Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast (Click for enlarged view)

Everyone has a place that’s special to them for one reason or another. For me, this is one of those places. If you ever find yourself in the northern portion of the Oregon coast, be sure to visit Ecola State Park. You won’t be disappointed.

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