• Toll Free: 877.838.2816
  • Local: 503.233.0706

Backpacking the Oregon Coast Trail: Tillamook Head

Backpacking the Oregon Coast Trail: Tillamook Head

Backpacking the Oregon Coast Trail: Tillamook Head

Oregon Coast Backpack Pacific Ocean view
The Cascades got another dusting of snow down to lower elevations this week.  Winter will linger a bit longer yet in the mountains, but Spring is already blooming near sea level.
Back in January, while waiting for the snow to fall, I took a few hikes in the Columbia Gorge.  I also got out for an overnight backpacking trip back then, and headed to the Oregon Coast to wander through the mossy spruce forests and camp atop Tillamook Head.
Seaside surfing beach Pacific Ocean waves
Leaving Portland on Highway 26, the drive to the coast is just a bit longer than driving to the far side of Mt. Hood.  We stopped to see what was left of the Klootchy Creek Giant - once the tallest Sitka Spruce, it came down a few years back.  But the "stump" and downed sections are still massive enough to amaze, and the wayside park has short trails just perfect for stretching your legs (and by April, a good place to view some early Spring wildflowers).  Veering North onto Highway 101, we stopped in Seaside for a quick fresh seafood lunch, and stocked up on some extra snacks for our overnight backpack trip.
Oregon Coast Trail trailhead near Seaside Oregon
Parking at the beach, we watched surfers ride the waves while we loaded up our packs.  Then we headed south on the Oregon Coast Trail.  We left the pavement and passed under a wooden gateway into the deep, dark, mossy forest.  Gradual at first, but then switchbacking up the side of the massive headland, we paused near the summit, and then continued along the trail.

Oregon Coast Trail Tillamook Head sun and trees    Oregon Coast Trail Tillamook Head crashing surf on rocky shores

We were atop sheer cliffs looking out at the Pacific Ocean.  Tillamook Rock and its lighthouse, alone, jutted up from the infinite sea.  From viewpoint to viewpoint, winding down into the woods in between, the trail was simply amazing.  Steep cliffs dropped down to rocky shores, pounded by the surf.  The trail switchbacked down a bit, and there was the campsite.
Pacific Coast Sunset from Tillamook Head Oregon
Dropping our packs, we set up camp, and went down to the viewpoint just in time for a stunning, blazing red and orange sunset.
Oregon Coast view from Tillamook Head orange sunset glow
Back at camp, we got a fire going in the fire pit and made Backpacker's Pantry freeze-dried meals for dinner.  The fire was mesmerizing, and we watched the embers glow and the flames lick up, throwing off embers that blinked out as they arced through the air.  Above our heads, the stars came out.  Orion stood out between openings in the tree tops, and we leaned back to catch a shooting star streak across the sky.
Campfire at Hikers Camp Tillamook Head Oregon Coast Trail
It didn't get very cold that night, considering that it was January, and the next morning dawned glorious.
We zipped down to the viewpoint and saw the sun rise on Terrible Tilly.  The rock glowed golden, and the breaking waves were pink-tinged in the long morning light.  A bald eagle soared by and landed in a tree far below - the eagle's white head and tail are barely discernable in this photograph (below right).
Tillamook Head Lighthouse at sunrise Oregon Coast Trail    Bald Eagle along Oregon Coast Trail Tillamook Head
All too soon, we were back on the Oregon Coast Trail heading north.  The windy nature of the Oregon Coast was all-too obvious, as we had to wend our way through sections of downed trees blocking the trail.
Oregon Coast Trail mossy Sitka Spruce forest
The sunny morning yielded to wisps of mist and cooler breezes as we made our way along the trail.
We took in the viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean, dipping into the deep mossy green Sitka spruce forest, back up and back down along the rugged headland coastline to the Seaside Trailhead.
Terrible Tilly Lighthouse view through trees on Oregon Coast Trail
Two days and one night camping on the Oregon Coast.  Spectacular even in January, of all months.

Pacific Ocean view of Tillamook Rock lighthouse

Want to have your own Oregon Coast backpacking experience?

Next Adventure Outdoor School now offers hiking and backpacking trips to the Oregon Coast.  Sign up today for one of our scheduled trips, or contact outdoorschool@nextadventure.net to create your own custom group tour for you and your friends.

Our full summer schedule of Day Hikes and Backpacking Trips is now available online at NextAdventure.net/Outdoor-School.

Take a hike with Next Adventure to Mt. Hood, the Columbia Gorge, or the Oregon Coast!

Backpacking camping tours with Next Adventure in Oregon

Greg Hill is lead guide and program manager for Next Adventure Outdoor School.

Next Adventure is a fully-insured licensed Outfitter and Guide with the State of Oregon.  Next Adventure is an equal opportunity Recreation Provider operating under special use permit on the Mt. Hood National Forest and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, USDA Forest Service.

Prev Post
Trip Report: XC-Ski and Snowshoe Tours
Next Post