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A Park for All Seasons
Published: 02/13/2010
The Cape Falcon Trail is a 2.4-mile trek through dense temperate coastal rainforest to the edge of the headland offering expansive unspoiled ocean views.
The Cape Falcon Trail is a 2.4-mile trek through dense temperate coastal rainforest to the edge of the headland offering expansive unspoiled ocean views.
Photo by Gary Hayes

Oswald West State Park, between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, is an excellent place to indulge a desire for hiking, photography, water sports, bird watching and other outdoor activities, with beach, mountain and meadow as a playground.

Moments after parking your vehicle at one of the Oswald West State Park's parking areas, you will tune in to nature among the dense ancient forest of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, Western Red cedar and Western hemlock trees that extend all the way to Short Sands Beach at Smugglers Cove. Many of these trees are estimated to be over 300 years old. Take the easy, one-third-mile walk on the paved and gravel path to the beach. Along the way you'll see huckleberries, salmonberries and salal. If you're quiet and alert, you may spot some wildlife, including elk, deer and Bald Eagles. Four miles of coastline offer opportunities for beachcombing, clamming, surf fishing, surfing and boogie boarding. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, photographers, amateur or professional, will find photos at every turn, from spring's wildflowers to spectacular ocean vistas and surfers riding the waves. Watch for whales, sea lions and seals offshore.

Hikers will love the 13-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail connecting the two prominent headlands of Cape Falcon and Neahkahnie Mountain that frame the park. From the suspension bridge at Necarney Creek, Oregon Coast Trail hikers can continue south on a 3.8-mile, 1661-foot ascent to the Neahkahnie Mountain summit from which they can see stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Manzanita, Nehalem Bay and miles of ocean shoreline. A 2.4-mile trail leads to the tip of Cape Falcon from the park's northernmost parking lot. The end of the cape offers a view seaward and back to Smugglers Cove.

Oswald West State Park was named for Oregon's 14th governor who was instrumental in preserving the state's beaches for public use and enjoyment. The park contained a popular walk-in campground until June, 2008, when an 11-foot thick Sitka spruce suddenly crashed onto three campsites in the middle of the night. No one was injured, but in the interest of public safety Oregon Parks and Recreation Department closed the campground. The remainder of the park continues to be open to the public for outdoor activities.  - By Stella Bennett

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