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Day Trips from Seaside
Published: 01/05/2011
Haystack Rock, a 235-foot basalt sea stack, is a designated Oregon State Marine Garden.
Haystack Rock, a 235-foot basalt sea stack, is a designated Oregon State Marine Garden.

Six day trips from Seaside offer a collection of diverse experiences, including Ecola State Park & Haystack Rock, Pacific Vista Drive, Astoria and the Columbia River, Cape Disappointment and Washington Lighthouses, Tillamook and Three Capes, Mountains and Meadows

Seaside makes a great base for ­exploring the Northwest Coast, whether you're interested in spectacular scenery, discovering the region's history or visiting remarkable natural areas. Take a Pacific vista tour and enjoy dramatic views of the coast, visit quaint coastal communities and experience ­regional attractions. You can walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, taking in scenes described in their historical journals, tour area lighthouses or visit regional museums. Several state parks and natural areas are a short drive away, offering access to the moss-draped forest, beautiful beaches, sparkling bays and wild rivers where you will find great hiking and biking trails, see wildlife, enjoy world-class bird watching or discover your own beach paradise.


Approximate One-Way Mileage: 9 miles
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 24 minutes
Minimum Time Required: 2-plus hours

Just 10 minutes south of Seaside, the beach community of Cannon Beach is known for its many art galleries and surrounding natural wonders. On the beach, Haystack Rock rises 235 feet above the shoreline, with ­fascinating tidepools at its base and ­observable puffins and seabirds ­nesting in spring and summer. At the north end of ­Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park. Take ­camera and binoculars to the viewpoint with views encompassing Crescent Beach, Bird Rocks, the town of Cannon Beach, ­Haystack Rock and Tillamook Rock ­Lighthouse. The park offers picnic areas, several miles of hiking trails and vantage points for great bird watching or observing seasonal Gray Whale migrations. Elk are commonly seen during the quieter seasons. Ecola State Park is a day use facility and a fee is charged for entry.

Insider Tips
Plan your trip to Haystack Rock at low tide, when its colorful tidepools are revealed. Between spring and fall, during low tides, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program on the beach offers interpretive information, bird spotting scopes and displays of live intertidal life. The nearest public parking lot is on Gower Street near City Hall. Beach access is located on the west end of Gower, about a half mile walk to Haystack Rock. After visiting the main viewpoint at Ecola State Park, hike or drive (1.7 miles) to scenic Indian Beach, a popular surfing location.

Approximate One Way Mileage: 19 miles
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 46 minutes
Minimum Time Required: 2-plus hours

Unforgettable vistas can be enjoyed at several waysides and viewpoints within 20 miles as you drive south of Seaside on Highway 101. Just south of Cannon Beach, a turnout at Silver Point offers views of the ocean, Haystack Rock and Tillamook Head. Farther on, you'll find the Arcadia Beach State Recreation Area beach access. A few minutes farther south, investigate Hug Point where there is beach access, along with caves and a waterfall. Just past the Arch Cape tunnel is Oswald West State Park, with viewpoints and hiking trails through scenic moss-covered forest to Short Sands Beach and rugged Cape Falcon. If you're not prone to vertigo, stop at several turnouts along the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain ­offering ­spectacular views of the coastline from ­hundreds of feet above the crashing surf.

Insider Tips
Visit Hug Point at low tide and walk north on the beach to find the old roadway that once served as the main transportation route along this rocky shoreline (be sure to check tide tables and return in plenty of time before incoming tides close off your return trip). At the main parking lot for Oswald West State Park there are shady picnic sites along the bubbling creek. A quarter-mile paved hiking trail from the parking lot traverses lush rainforest leading to Short Sands Beach. For a more extensive hike, park just to the south of the main parking area at the trailhead for the Cape Falcon trail (4.8 miles roundtrip). The trail crosses through some nice old-growth stands, emerging at the end of the windswept cape offering panoramic views.

Approximate One Way Mileage: 17 miles
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 54 minutes
Minimum Time Required: 3-plus hours

The historic seaport of Astoria on the Columbia River is the oldest United States settlement west of the Rockies. Located 18 miles north of Seaside, Astoria has a riverfront walk and a restored trolley that follows the historic ­waterfront district. Astoria is also home to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, showcasing the Pacific Northwest's rich maritime history through interactive exhibits and programs. Visitors can also tour the Flavel House, a well-preserved Victorian mansion of a former sea captain. On ­Coxcomb Hill, the Astoria Column offers ­panoramic views of the region. The history of the Lewis and Clark expedition comes to life at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center just south of Astoria. To the west is Fort Stevens State Park, where you will find historic military fortifications that guarded the mouth of the Columbia River. The park also offers miles of biking and hiking trails and provides access to the beach where the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale can be seen.

Insider Tips
During the summer, a living history program at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center features costumed re-enactors who demonstrate some of the skills and routines practiced by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The outdoor fort exhibit is a full-size reconstruction of the original structure built by the explorers. Astoria's restored trolley is a fun and convenient way to see the city's active riverfront, offering access to nearby attractions including the renowned Columbia River Maritime Museum.

Approximate One Way Mileage: 33 miles
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Minimum Time Required: 4-plus hours

The Northwest's lighthouses are ­inspiring symbols of the region's rich maritime ­history. About an hour drive from ­Seaside, on the north side of the Columbia River, is Cape Disappointment, where two ­lighthouses mark the entrance to the river. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (1856) is one of the Northwest's oldest structures and nearby is the North Head Lighthouse built in 1898. Both lighthouses are located in Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Washington. Also located within the park is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center recounting the journey of the Corps of Discovery.

Insider Tips
Just inside the park gates at Cape Disappointment State Park, a boardwalk designed by artist Maya Lin leads to Waikiki Beach. Lin is best known for designing the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC and her boardwalk features inscriptions from Lewis and Clark's journals from their historic journey to this location. The work is part of Lin's Confluence Project at six locations along the Columbia River basin. From here, follow signs to the north jetty where from the public parking area you can enjoy a dramatic view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from below. When the surf is up, waves crash at the base of the Cape, exploding into a fine mist and foam.

Approximate One Way Mileage: 77.5 miles
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 3 hours, 44 minutes
Minimum Time Required: 6-plus hours

About an hour drive south of Seaside, you can visit the home of Tillamook Cheese. The Tillamook County Creamery features an ­extensive visitor center where you can learn about the ­history of the 100-year-old brand and sample famous Tillamook cheese, ice cream and fudge. If you'd like to make a full day's trip of it, head west to the Three Capes Scenic Route, where ­visitors can see the lighthouse at Cape Meares State Park, find day use beach access and hiking trails at beautiful Cape Lookout State Park and continue south to the sculpted sandstone headland of Cape Kiwanda before returning to Highway 101. Just south of Tillamook is the Tillamook Air Museum.

Insider Tips
On your drive to Tillamook, between Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi, look for the dramatic rock formations known as The Three Graces near the mouth of Tillamook Bay. At the town of Oceanside, you'll find a tunnel through the rocky headland just north of the public wayside. Accessible only at low tide, the tunnel leads to a small beach. In Pacific City, the Cape Kiwanda wayside offers access to the sculpted sandstone headland if you're willing to climb the giant sand dune. From the top, dramatic rock formations can be seen and make an ideal spot to watch big crashing waves.

Approximate One Way Mileage: 21.2 miles (Saddle Mountain State Park);
39.6 miles (Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area)
Approximate Roundtrip Driving Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes (Saddle Mountain State Park);
1 hour, 42 minutes (Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area)
Minimum Time Required: 3-plus hours

About 18 miles east of Seaside is the Saddle Mountain State Natural Area off Highway 26, known for its rugged trail to the top of Saddle Mountain, offering expansive views of the Northwest. Spring and early summer seasons display colorful and diverse wildflowers, many unique to this area. Another side trip of interest is the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area. The open pastures border a state highway, offering dependable viewing of herds of Roosevelt Elk during winter and spring. The main meadow is a year-round refuge. The wildlife area has two paved parking areas, four viewing areas and interpretive signs. Best chances of spotting herds are just after daylight and again in the early evening.

Insider tips
Late spring and early summer wildflowers on the hike up Saddle Mountain can be profuse and include some rare varieties limited to this part of the Coast Range. The hike to Saddle Mountain is 5.5 miles roundtrip and is considered challenging with a 1600 foot elevation gain. Jewell Meadow Wildlife Area is operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who operates a seasonal elk feeding program here. Between November and April, it's common to see herds of up to 200 elk in the meadows.

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