Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,100 ft.
Located on Cascade Head, the trail to Hart’s Cove is only open from July 16 to December 31. Part of the Nature Conservancy’s Cascade Head Preserve, researchers are working to protect the endangered Oregon silverspot butterfly, rare wildflowers, and native grasses.
The trail loses over 900 feet of elevation as you hike from the trailhead to the shore of the coast, with the steepest section in the first half mile. Most of the hike is through a dense coastal rainforest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock with a thick understory of ferns and moss.
The trail crosses two creeks: the first is Cliff Creek with a sturdy wood bridge, and the second is a bridgeless crossing of Chitwood Creek. The former bridge was washed out and still laying in the creek just down from the crossing. Sea lions can be heard barking loudly, but we never did see them.
At about 2.5 miles, the trail leaves the forest and heads steeply down a large meadow to the base of the headland overlooking the ocean. Follow a side trail to a spectacular view of Hart’s Cove, with Chitwood Creek cascading as a waterfall into the ocean. The water is a deep blue-green color, with waves crashing against the steep cliff walls of the cove.
On the drive out, we stopped for sunset views of the coastline.