During spring break, we spent three days backpacking from the Northern point of Oregon called South Jetty to Ecola State Park, approximately 22 miles, and we had a blast. I don’t say that too lightly. The weather was not kid friendly, but instead a high of 50 and rain that would come and go for two days and never leave on the third day and yet the kids had so much fun. Click here to read about her Oregon Coast Trail goal.
Day One: We started at northern point of Fort Stevens State Park called South Jetty. When we arrived, we didn’t know what we were looking for in terms of the starting point. We climbed up the lookout tower and admired the crashing waves hitting the jetty. I determined that the starting point was farther down the jetty and so we hiked about a half mile down the sandy beach and climbed up onto the rocks for a better view. Although we couldn’t locate a starting point, we sat and enjoyed the huge crashing waves all around us. Eventually, we gave up on a starting point and began to follow the jetty toward the beach in the direction of the Peter Iredale shipwreck. After passing the lookout tower and continuing on about 30 more feet, we found the first trail marker. I later confirmed with the park ranger that the trail marker was the official start.
We continued south and followed the wide beach. It was nice for the kids to not have to stay on an actual narrow trail for this area. They were free to run toward the water, chase birds, explore the driftwood built shelters and just run free. With the late start in the day, we competed four miles (with a three year old setting the pace). We turned off trail and headed to camp.
Day two began about a half mile north of the Peter Iredale Shipwreck after a big pancake breakfast. The kids enjoyed seeing a shipwreck off in the distance and kept their focus on getting to the ship to explore it. As we approached the ship, a steady rain began. This didn’t phase the kids, but it did run off all the other visitors. We had the shipwreck to ourselves for a few minutes. The kids explored and climbed this boat for a good half hour before we decided to continue down the coast. We spent the entire morning and afternoon making our way south. We passed sand dunes and Sunset Beach Recreation Site. We didn’t see any four wheelers out but assumed the rain was keeping them away. After about nine miles, we called it a day. We were filled with adventure, sand and some water.
On Day 3, we picked up where we left off and had a goal to hike all the way to Cannon Beach. This would have made it a 11 mile day and as we arrived at the beach, the clouds were dark and the rain was coming down with a little more force than the day before. The kids were still determined to continue hiking down the coast, mostly because they can run all over the place and explore at the same time. With all the waterproof gear and warm gear on, they didn’t care about the rain. We spent the day hiking and exploring Del Ray Beach and Gearhart Ocean State Park. From the coast, we made our way to the city Gearhart, and then to Seaside in order to get around the Necanicum River. We stopped for lunch at Tsunami Sandwich Company. It was nice to get a warm prepared meal and get a break from the constant rain.
After a hour lunch and a second hour of playing chess, we were plotting our course up up to Ecola State Park and down to Cannon Beach. The general feel of the group was a loss of motivation after a warm dry restaurant and watching the pouring rain out the window. The reality was it was day 3 of backpacking with kids and a second day of rain hiking. The rain had finally made an impression on the kids. I had a feeling that we may not make it to Cannon Beach and I was okay with that. We had already had such a fun few days of hanging out and hiking the coast together.
We threw our backpacks on and headed through the city of Seaside toward Ecola State Park. We spent the better part of the next few hours climbing up the trail. We finally reached the main parking lot at Ecola and enjoyed the views of Cannon Beach below and the coast all around. After such a steep climb, compared to flat beach walking for days, the kids were done. They completed another nine miles and the giant rocks at Cannon Beach were not enough to inspire the kids to hike on. We ended this section of our hike at the state park. What a fun adventure it had been! I can’t wait to head back and pick back up.
We have hiked various sections of the PCT and PNT and I would have to say the Oregon Coast Trail has to be the best longer distance backpacking trail to do with kids of all ages. It was safe enough for the three year old and adventurous enough for the 9 and 11 year old.
For anyone considering this trail with kids, beach camping is not allowed from South Jetty (where we began) to Gearhart/Seaside area. You have to be able to hike for 16 miles or find an alternative. For us, this was the only logistical challenge we had. We chose to “camp” at the KOA just outside of Fort Stevens SP, but the State Park had plenty of camping too. The KOA just provided other options (inside pool in the evenings, free breakfast, showers, internet, and a place to dry out clothing).