Oregon State Parks are located throughout the entire state with some of the most appealing ones lining the coastline. Some have fees while others are drive through but all offer views, resting areas, and picnic spots to enjoy the day. One specific state park is located in Cannon Beach, Oregon and is called The Ecola State Park.
Cannon Beach is located about 30 miles South of Astoria and less than two hours West of the Portland International Airport. A popular place when the weather is warm and the ocean is calm, people from all over flock the shoreline to enjoy the white sand and hear the crashing of the ocean against the shoreline. Sunsets that disappear into the ocean and the salty breeze that runs through your hair can turn any bad day into a good one.
A popular attraction is the Ecola State Park which is located North of Cannon Beach and is easily accessible from the coastal 101 Highway, in fact, it is the first Cannon Beach exit you come to when driving into the area from the North. At the bottom of the exit, follow the signs which will navigate you easily through a small residential area before climbing the hill to the top.
The beginning of the drive is through a residential area with thick trees along the way. Peaks of the ocean can be seen but nothing that offers any great view. The further up you go the more narrow the road becomes, two cars can pass but on some curves, it is a tight squeeze. There are metal gates that mark the entrance to the park and the remainder of the way involves more sharp turns and blind corners. The road can also be rough and during a rainy season has a lot of water running down which leads to part of the road being washed away, marked with orange cones as a warning.
Other drivers on the road may not be as considerate as you are on your first drive up. Most like to take the speed faster and barely move over to allow you to pass, while those behind you will want a ride in your trunk. Don't let this push you into a faster drive, they will wait and back off, it can be a tense drive up but it is all worth it.
Once at the top there will be a guard shaft, which is sometimes operated and sometimes not. When it isn't there is a small box on the shaft that allows you to pay either with a card or cash for a day pass, which is only $5. It takes all of two minutes, however, on warm, sunny days expect to see a line of several cars when you get there. However, it does move quickly and once paid the pass is good until the park closes that day. Feel free to come back later if the area is too crowded for you or you would like to take in the sunset.
After you have paid the park fee there are two ways to go. One way is to the Indian Beach which is a turn to the right. Get ready for more wheel gripping when you head this way. The entrance was narrow enough but pretty sure this route was even more narrow and extremely rough. Due to water damage, there were several areas that were full of potholes and had to slow way down in order to get through them. Some were on blind corners and other sections only allowed one car through at a time.
Be mindful of all of these things when driving towards Indian Beach which is also popular with the surfers, hikers, and beachgoers. This makes it the most popular spot in the park and traffic can be thick going up and coming back which makes the drive even tenser. Once to the top, the view is pretty neat but it is the trails down to the beach that offer the better view as well as a lot of room to spread out.
There are over several miles of trails that will take you through the park and down to the beach, over the cliffs and allow you to experience part of the Clatsop Loop Trail and Tillamook Head. This is also the area that was discovered by Captain William Clark who upon arrival to Tillamook Head described it as, "...the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed..." Those words ring true even to this day. But don't leave the park just yet there is one more area to visit before you leave.
As you pass by the entrance fee area continue forward to the scenic view. This area has limited parking and is more for the picnickers and leisure walkers. The view can be seen as you drive in, Haystack Rock is on your left, the majestic Pacific ocean is before you and off to your right, in the far distance, is Tillamook Rock Light. If there is any sort of fog or mist off the ocean this place disappears from sight altogether. It was at one time a working lighthouse but has since been deactivated and sits a little over a mile from the shoreline.
The salty breeze flows easily and effortlessly up here, Cannon Beach is seen behind Haystack Rock and the ocean slams against the shoreline with endless waves as far as the eye can see. During winter and spring migrating grey whales can also be seen. There are restroom facilities available here, as well as information placards along the trails up top and some of them will take you down to the ocean. Get ready for a hike, it is a long way down there and even longer back up.
This is the best place to watch the sunset and during that time the area gets pretty quiet but it is also a popular place for photographers of all trades. There is one more place I would like to quickly write about.
When leaving Ecola State Park, at the bottom of the road, turn right towards the residential area and look for the Les Shirley Park which is less than a block on your left. This is a very small, local park that has about 10 parking spots. But it has access to the beach, picnic areas and a little bit of seclusion from the main beach. A walk out to the beach gives you a face to face view of the rock formations, and allows you to watch others play with their dogs along the beach and see kites fill the sky. Follow the beach around the bend and there is Ecola State Park high above you.
If you look carefully you can almost see the visitors up top and in the far distance, on a clear day, Tillamook Rock Light can also be seen. Dogs are welcome at both parks and leashes are required at Ecola State Park, at Les Shirley as long as the dog can be controlled it can be off-leash. This was the part Aria, my dog, loved the most along with chasing the seagulls.
To learn more about the Ecola State Park please visit their website at https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=136. Any park closures due to construction will also be posted here. Enjoy!
You don't have to go far to have fun. Here are a few places I visit when I'm not driving across country or exploring the Rustic Roads.