hike: Neahkahnie Mountain + Oregon Coast Trail
Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,650 ft
Location: Oswald West State Park
The views from Neahkahnie Mountain (1,680 ft.) are some of the best in the north Oregon coast. The mountain is located on the coastline just north of the town of Manzanita and Nehalem Bay. With two trailheads, it is possible to do this as a one-way hike, but it would require either a car shuttle or a 1.5 mile walk along busy 101 highway. For this hike, we opted for a longer version beginning near Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. All of this hike is part of the Oregon Coast Trail, a long-distance trail that runs the entire length of the Oregon Coast.
We parked at the last of three parking lots along Highway 101 for Short Sand Beach, taking the Necarney Creek Trail to the Elk Flats Trail. We crossed a suspension bridge over Necarney Creek, then headed towards the beach. Taking the Elk Flats Trail, we then headed up the hill and towards Neahkahnie Mountain. The trail heads through forest for about half a mile, with switchbacks up the first section.
Leaving the forested area, the trail heads through a large overgrown meadow with shrubs and wildflowers. When the trail ends at a junction, turn right on the side trail for a view of Devils Cauldron. After taking in the views, turn around and continue straight on the same trail, coming out a parking lot on Highway 101 directly across from the north trailhead for Neahkahnie Mountain.
The beginning section of the trail switchbacks up the slope of the mountain through a tunnel-like path of salal, ferns and berry shrubs, with occasional views of the ocean, Cape Falcon and Smuggler’s Cove. After a short distance, the trail then enters the forest and continues up the north side of the mountain through varying types of forest, mostly with an undergrowth of ferns and salal, but a couple of sections are much darker, drier and completely devoid of undergrowth. Coming around the west side of the mountain, the trail drops to a small saddle, then begins climbing to the south summit area.
The views to the south suddenly open in a rocky area of the trail, and there is a steep scramble up the rock to the summit, but it’s much easier to reach the top if you continue a short distance until a sharp turn in the trail leads to a hillside of tree roots that provide steps up the slope and lead to a small rocky spine to the top. At the rocky summit, take in the views looking directly down at Manzanita and Nehalem Bay, and on a clear day, look out all the way to Cape Lookout.