6 Can’t Miss Beach Hikes on the West Coast
– Photograph: Indian Beach at Ecola State Park Oregon
Spring is here, and sun-soaked days are near, making this an unmatched time of year for lacing up and hitting the trail—particularly along the rocky coastline of western states like California, Oregon and Washington. Many routes in these parts offer the coastal vistas you’ve been craving all winter, along with challenging terrain to help you work up a sweat and truly earn those long hours of relaxation back at the base. Best of all, spring affords longer days filled with refreshing breezes, fresh flowers in bloom, and all-around ideal conditions for hiking, with less crowds along the trails than you may find in summer.
For hikers across varying skill levels, here are six of our favorite places to start.
Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop, California
Conveniently located just outside of Del Mar and open year round, this relatively easy 2.3-mile loop only takes about an hour and change to complete. To draw it out and soak up the peak views along the coast, plan ahead with a blanket and packed lunch so you can take your time. Just note this is a favorite path among many in the area. To avoid the crowds, plan your hike during off-peak days and times.
Shi Shi Beach, Washington
Clocking in at 8 miles round trip, this legendary hike—along with its most photographed site at Point of the Arches—can be tackled in a day. But with jaw-dropping views , you just may want to plan ahead and linger a while. With the right permits, you can even camp overnight, so you can take your time exploring all the tide pools, coastal forests and other exquisite terrain along the way.
Ecola State Park, Oregon
In fact a web of trails rather than one select path, this state park is a favorite among hikers of all abilities. While the route that attracts the most attention here is the 8-mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), beginners can start with one of the shorter paths, such as the 1.25-mile Crescent Beach descent or the 1.5-mile jaunt to Indian Beach. Whatever your chosen path, this state park offers incredible biological diversity and views galore. Depending on the timing of your spring hike, you may even spot migrating whales just offshore.
McWay Falls, California
Whether you’ve driven the winding Highway 1 through Big Sur, or you’ve simply marveled over photographs of it from afar, you know this iconic coastline is among California’s crown jewels. This overlook trail features dazzling views along the Pacific coastline, and while it’s an indisputably short 0.6-mile round trip hike, it pays off with the ultimate vantage of an 80-foot waterfall. While you won’t even need the daypack for this one, the neighboring Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park affords a myriad of trails of varying lengths if you’re looking to stick around a bit longer.
Cape Flattery, Washington
Nestled among dense forestland at the northwesternmost tip of the Lower 48 states, this 1.5-mile trail packs a full day’s worth of sights into a generally short trek. Check in at Washburn’s General Store for a permit, then hit the gravel road that kicks off this path. While the trail itself ultimately turns to a well-maintained boardwalk for much of the route, be sure to wear the right footwear to help you stay relatively mud-free. And don’t forget to bring layers, as the canopy of trees at this Olympic Peninsula site can make the spring breezes feel even cooler.
Devils Lake, Oregon
While the breathtaking Pacific Crest Trail spans the entirety of Canada’s E.C. Manning Provincial Park down to the west coast’s Baja border with Mexico, Devil’s Lake Trailhead in the Willamette National Forest near Bend has something for every outdoor adventurer. More daring hikers may opt for the epic 50-mile length that winds an elongated loop through the Three Sisters Wilderness, while Devil’s Lake Trail itself is just 1.6-miles out and back, packing in some of the same lush wilderness and sweeping views in under an hour’s hike.