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Tillamook Head Hiking Trail


Easy (to Indian Beach) 3 miles round trip 400 feet elevation gain Moderate (to WWII Bunker) 3.9 mile loop 900 feet elevation gain Difficult (Shuttle across headland 6.1 miles one way 13509 feet elevation gain

Tillamook Head rises 1000 feet from the ocean, with jagged capes and rocky islands. The Lewis and Clark expedition crossed this formidable headland in 1806 to buy the blubber of a stranded whale from indians at Cannon Beach. At a viewpoint along the way Clark marveled, "I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospectwhich my eyes ever surveyed."

The headland itself is a tilted remnant of a massive, 15-million-year-old Columbia River basalt flow. Increadibly, the lavawelled up near Idaho, flooded down the Columbia Gorge, and spread along the seashore to this point.

From Highway 101, take the north exit for Cannon Beach and follow Ecola State park signs, keeping right for 2 miles to the park's entrance booth. A day-use parking fee is collected there

For an easy 3-mile hike suitable for hikers with children, turn left aththe booth and head for the Ecola Point picnic area. As you aenter the parking lot, look for a trail sign on the right. The path that starts here climbs around scenic bluffs past 3 of the best viewpoints in the park. After 1.5 miles a left-hand spur drops to Indian Beach, a good turnaround point . Ahead, the main trail bridges Canyon Creek to the Indian Beach picnic area parking lot.

For the longer hikes at Tillamook Head it's best to start at the Indian Beach picnic area. Drive there by turning right at the park's fee booth for 1.5 miles. This trail starts as an old gatedroad on the right-hand side of the Indian Beach parking turnaround. After 100 yards keep left at the fork and climb, steeply at times, through old-growth spruce and alder woods. Wear boots, as there are a few slippery spots. After 1.6 miles turn left at a trail crossing near a primitive camping area for backpackers. In another 0.2 mile you'll find the dark, 6-room concrete bunker, which housed a radar installation in World War II. Just beyond is a cliff-edge viewpoint, breathtakingly high above a rugged rock beach.

1-1/4 miles out to sea is Tillamook Rock, a bleak island with a lighthouse that operated from 1881 to 1957. Nicknamed "Terrible Tilly," the light was repeatedly overswept by winter storms that dashed water, rocks, and fish into the lantern room 150 feet above normal sea level. The island was finally bought by funeral entrepreneurs who bring in urns of creamated remains by helicopter.

If you're ready to return on the loop to your car, simply walk back from the viewpoint to the trail crossing and go straight on a well-graded abandoned road 1.6 miles downhill to the Indian Beach parking lot.

If you prefer to continue across Tillamook Head, turn left at the trail crossing. The trail climbs and dips for 2.6 miles, passing some excellent views north (including the one Clark liked), before switchbacking down through the forest 1.7 miles to a parking area at the end of Sunset Boulevard.

To find this northern trailhead, drive Highway 101 to Seaside's Southern most traffic signal, turn west on Avenue U for two blocks and turn left on Edgewood (which becomes Sunset) for 1.2 miles to road's end.

OTHER HIKING OPTIONS:

You can skip Ecola State Park's day-use fee by starting at the Sunset Boulevard trailhead and hiking the other way across Tillamook Head. Another free option is to park in Cannon Beach. Simply walk north along the park's entrance road 0.9 mile, and take a well-marked but little-used 1.1 mile trail to the entrance booth. this path often parallels the road, but passes 2 nice viewpoints.

From Tillamook Head you can see Cape Lookout 42 miles South. Cape Foulweather is 81 miles south of Tillamook Head