backpack: Tillamook Head
The Oregon Coast offers very few opportunities for backpacking. The hiker’s camp on Tillamook Head, while intended for people thru-hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, has a designated camp area with wood shelters as well as space for tents.
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4 miles, 1,200 ft. gain
- day hike options: Clatsop Trail to Indian Beach
- best months: anytime, although trails are muddier in the winter and spring
- location: Oregon Coast; nearest town: Seaside
- land management: Oregon State Parks – Ecola State Park
- hike description: Oregon Hikers – Tillamook Head Traverse Hike
- permits: none required
- trailhead pass: none required
- note: there’s no water source near the camp area
- parking: leaving a vehicle overnight is not allowed at the trailhead
4 miles, 1,200 ft. gain
We started at the Seaside trailhead for the hike in to the camp area, parking about 2/10 mile before the trailhead at a small gravel pullout. The trail is challenging due to all of the mud pits, downed trees to climb over or under, and tree root steps.
The trails were super muddy, even in July.
The hiker’s camp has three wooden shelters for Oregon Coast Trail hikers, and a large area behind them to set up tents. Unusual features for a backpacking site included a vault toilet (no cathole digging!), and bundles of firewood to burn in the campfire ring ($5 each). There’s even a covered shelter with a picnic table. What there isn’t, however, is access to water for filtering… unless you hike another 1.5 miles down the trail to a seasonal creek, with about 800 ft. elevation loss (and then gain on the way back up).
For access to Indian Beach, continue on the trail from the hiker’s camp for another 1.5 miles to Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. Great views of the coastline and Coast Range mountains are seen from the trail. Return via the Clatsop loop on an old road for an easier route back up to the hiker’s camp.
To add interest to this trip, this trail has a bit of historical significance… it was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1906. They crossed the headland to buy whale blubber from the Native Americans in Cannon Beach. From the hiker’s camp, a short trail leads to a viewpoint of Tillamook Lighthouse, passing by an old WWII bunker for radar equipment.