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Clatsop Loop

Ecola State Park

August 7th, 2018

3.1 miles
810 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:57

Starting elevation
59 feet
Max elevation
786 feet

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From Portland, take Highway 26 west toward the coast. Take the 101 south exit. Exit at Cannon Beach (Fir Street) and turn right onto East 5th Street. Shortly, turn right onto the Ecola State Park road. Follow the narrow winding road to the park entrance. After paying the $5 fee, turn right and follow the road to the Indian Beach parking area at the end.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

When we arrived at Ecola State Park in the afternoon, there was a line of cars to get in. Once we hit the line, it took almost 15 minutes to reach the park entrance itself, where a sign said the Indian Beach parking lot was full. Thankfully, there's a lot of turnover, so that was only temporary. The entrance attendant said it wouldn't be more than 15 minutes, and it was actually only about half that. A flagger up the road would let a car go in when a car came out.

Soon enough we were at the Indian Beach parking lot, one of two lots in the park. The trail between the two lots is a popular easy hike, but that trail was closed at this time because of landslides. So our only option was to hike the trail heading north from Indian Beach.

The book I had listed a 5 mile loop starting at Indian Creek, to “Tillamook Head”, but the numbers and description didn't quite add up. The trail signs at the start showed a much shorter hike, about 3 miles.

Indian Beach

We headed up the main dirt road of the Clatsop Loop Trail, which starts climbing immediately. The forest is dense, with ferns growing underneath. We encountered a few people, but probably the fewest of any hike we'd done in the past few days. Almost everyone just headed to Indian Beach not far from the parking lot, for surfing, swimming, or barbecuing.

Heading up the trail

One of the taller trees next to the trail

Mossy trees

Bee and flower

Continuing up the trail

I kept expecting the trail to relent, but it never did. It climbed at a steady pace uphill through the forest. Finally, we reached the top and started heading down. Almost immediately we reached a restroom and the hiker's camp - a few cabins and a fire pit. There was only one person there staying the night, though there were a few other people milling about.

Hiker cabins

We then took the side trail steeply downhill to the viewpoint. There wasn't much to see. Fog enveloped most of the coast to the north and south, and the vegetation obscured what was still visible. We got a glimpse of the rocky shore to the south, but that's about it. The lighthouse was nowhere to be seen. Also nowhere to be seen was the “old bunker” that was referred to in the hiking book I mentioned. However, on the way back we saw a set of rusty old metal bars. In retrospect that was probably the bunker. I've since seen a video of someone entering the bunker from above, but I'm sure we wouldn't have done that. Still, that does suggest some hidden use trails we didn't try. I'm also still not sure where the book got the 5 mile loop from; perhaps they meant to hike further north along the trail (which goes all the way to a trailhead in Seaside).

Looking down toward the rocks and ocean from the overlook

Fog to the north

We took the narrow singletrack trail back toward the parking lot. It's winding, narrow, and I think steeper than the way we took up. On some occasions there are views looking out toward the coast, but you have to get right up to the edge of the cliff to see them. Usually, vegetation blocks the views.

Heading back down the singletrack


Mossy tree

Fog just off the coast

View to the north

North end of Indian Beach

The trail comes to a bench overlooking Indian Beach, where you can have great views of the surfers and picnickers. After a brief stop there, we continued down to the trailhead.

Indian Beach from the bench

Looking out at Indian Beach

Bee and flower

Indian Beach

Rocks to the south

This tree refuses to die

Indian Beach

Indian Beach

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