Four Places Not to Miss in Oswald West State Park
Oswald West State Park is situated along a jaw-dropping section of coastline highlighted by dramatic cliffs that drop dramatically to the sea; lush rainforests punctuated by open meadows alive with birds and beasts; and a picture-perfect cove beach complete with waterfalls and babbling creeks. This gorgeous setting offers a handful of quintessential Oregon Coast experiences that shouldn’t be missed.
Neahkahnie Mountain Views
The views from atop Neahkahnie Mountain stretch for miles to the south as far as Cape Lookout and can be easily enjoyed steps from your car along a series of roadside turnouts along Highway 101. However, those who crave adventure may want to take on the picturesque, but challenging, climb to the top of this 1661-foot coastal mountain. The mountain can be hiked from either side, with the north trail starting across the highway from a small gravel pullout just a mile south of the main Oswald West parking lots. From here, the trail leads two miles up the mountain through switchbacks bordered by dense salal and shady sections of second-growth forest. The south trail starts from a gravel side road just off Highway 101 and is a 1.3-mile trek through more open forest habitat with peeks north toward Nehalem Bay and beyond.
Short Sand Beach
Perfectly nestled between two rocky outcroppings in Smuggler’s Cove, Short Sand Beach is a beautiful spot for a picnic with a view, wildlife watching, or just taking in the local surfing action. From the Oswald West State Park main parking lot along Highway 101, the beach can be reached by walking half a mile down an easy, well-developed trail. As you walk the path, you can tune in to nature among the dense forest of spruce, fir, cedar, and hemlock trees as you are serenaded by singing birds and babbling Short Sand Creek. A footbridge crossing toward the trail's end reveals glimpses of the gorgeous beach just beyond a large picnic area. A day spent at Short Sand Beach may display a soaring Bald Eagle or a diving Peregrine Falcon, and a trek to the not-so-far north end leads to lovely Blumenthal Falls.
For more adventurous explorers, a hike to the end of Cape Falcon is a great way to spend part of the day at Oswald West State Park. A trail through the rainforest is dotted with peekaboo views south of Smuggler’s Cove and Short Sand Beach. Chipmunks and squirrels scurry about, and songbirds flit through the lush undergrowth. At the end of the cape, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of cliffs and coves to the north and south, along with possible glimpses of pelagic birds and surfacing whales below during the proper seasons. Cape Falcon is roughly a 5-mile round trip hike. It can be reached either from the trailhead at the northernmost parking lot on the west side of the highway or by walking the Short Sand Beach trail and using the connecting trail past the Kramer Memorial just above the beach.
Just south of Short Sand Beach, Devil’s Cauldron is a cove bordered by cliffs that drop hundreds of feet straight into the sea. It’s an unforgettable experience to stand at the overlook above and listen to ocean waves thunder into the cove and explode against the rock walls below. From this overlook, you might also catch sight of pelagic birds or, occasionally, whales. Devil’s Cauldron can be reached by parking at the gravel pull-out for the North Neahkahnie Mountain Trail one mile south of the main Oswald West parking lots and hiking a moderately steep but short ¼-mile round trip from your car. Alternatively, you may stretch your hike out into an approximately three-mile round trip by starting at the Necarney Creek and Elk Flats Trails near the parking lots in the park's central section. For your safety, please use caution near the end of this trail and do not go beyond barriers.