The beauty of an Oregon summer is that adventure is varied and easy to find. This week, we trek to what many call the best view to the Oregon coast. Cascade Head is a significant and protected site that is prized for its rare plant and animal life.
Where the ocean meets the Oregon shore, beachcombers wander, kayakers paddle and it’s easy to find a certain rhythm to the summer season. That’s especially true at Cascade Head, where looming headlands rise to meet the sky and the trails less traveled invite you to explore a view that few would deny is one of the finest of the Oregon coastline. Cascade Head has been a National Scenic and Research Area since 1974.
Located near the line between Tillamook Lincoln Counties, there are multiple trails you can follow to explore the area. We chose the shortest for our hike – just a mile in length – that spans US Forest Service land and reaches nearly 300 acres of the well-known Nature Conservancy Preserve where the view takes your breath away.
In the early 1960s, volunteers organized an effort to protect Cascade Headland from development; by 1966 they had raised funds to purchase the property, after which they turned it over to The Nature Conservancy. Because of its ecological significance, Cascade Head Preserve and surrounding national forest and other lands have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.
Hiker Don Best is an avid cameraman and a lifelong local who loves his coastal county. But surprise, his toes have never touched this ground before. Don has made a name for himself capturing coastal Oregon from the air. The capes at Cascade Head stick out like a multi-pronged fork and the ocean is a wash of deep blue that is strong contrast with the dramatic landforms.
Cascade Head provides awesome views on a day when coastal clouds roll ashore and seem so close you could reach out and touch them. There’s an ethereal feel to the hiking experience. But let a hike to Cascade Head be but the start of this coastal journey. Head north on Coastal Highway 101 and take a quick jog into the coast range mountains at the small village of Hebo. Nearly five miles later you can put down roots at a cozy campground built for summer vacations back in the 1930’s called Hebo Lake Campground.
Hebo Lake is small and shallow. A gravel trail around the entire lake provides good bank access and there are four ADA barrier-free fishing platforms located on the lake; two are accessible from the paved road. Only non-motorized boats are permitted on the lake. Because the lake is so small, it is better suited to canoes, small rafts or float tubes.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the campground, the trails – plus a rustic stone and timber shelter – nearly 80 years ago, according to US Forest Service Ranger, George Buckingham. In 2010, the Forest Service closed the area for the season to drain and deepen the small lake for better fish habitat and improved all of the campgrounds too.
Each year, more than 10,000 visitors hike the Cascade Head Preserve and folks come to enjoy the unique views, the rare and protected wildflowers and much more, so stay on the main trail. Remember that dogs and collection of plants are not allowed.
Access is by foot traffic only; no bikes are allowed and motorized vehicles are prohibited. For groups of 10 or more, please contact the Nature Conservancy to arrange your visit.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.