hike: Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop at Cape Perpetua

The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area contains some of the best remaining old growth forest on the Oregon Coast. This hike includes the Cooks Ridge, Gwynn Creek and Oregon Coast Trails for a 6 mile loop.

distance: 6.3 miles (loop hike)
elevation gain: 1,200 ft.
difficulty: moderate
drive time from Portland: 3 hours
parking pass: NW Forest Pass
hike description: OregonHikers.org – Gwynn Creek loop

The Hike

We parked in the day use area and walked to the upper parking lot for RVs to reach the trailhead.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hikeCape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike

It was raining and foggy when we started the hike, which enhanced the green colors on the mossy covered trees. The trail ascends gently to a ridge with large old growth trees.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike

At the junction with the Gwynn Creek Trail, we headed down towards the coast. This section of the hike has multiple small creeks to cross, and larger Gwynn Creek at the bottom of the ridge.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike

There were several large trees that fell and blocked the trail on the Gwynn Creek trail (no photos of this part of our hike). One of them was large enough that we couldn’t get over it without risking falling down the ridge as we tried to go over it. We could have turned around and hiked out the same way we came in, but that would have been about 10 miles for the day and likely would have gotten dark on us as we finished. Instead, we scrambled up a steep slope covered in blow down to get around it. It would have been nice to know about this hazard before beginning the hike since it was a treacherous climb – even though we managed to do it safely, it definitely could have gone otherwise for us. We stopped at the visitors center to let the forest service know about it and they mentioned that they have work crews coming in with chain saws to take care of it soon.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike

At the junction with the Oregon Coast Trail, we stopped to take in the view of Gwynn Creek before heading back towards the visitors center.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike

The Oregon Coast Trail section of this hike parallels Highway 101 and has views of the coastline through the forest. The rain lifted and blue skies with puffy clouds greeted us at the end of the hike.

Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike Cape Perpetua – Cooks Ridge/Gwynn Creek loop hike