: Tillamook Head Trail by Don Frank / Visit Seaside

A Year of North Coast Adventures

From arts festivals to forest hikes, each month brings new thrills.
Michael H. Kew, Guest Author
December 20, 2017

There’s always something happening on Oregon’s North Coast. All year long, its storied towns and their environs brim with fun, from poetry festivals to pristine waterways to trails with panoramic views of the Pacific. Here’s a month-by-month rundown of what’s not to miss. And check each city’s calendars — Cannon Beach, Seaside, Astoria and Warrenton — for a full list of events.

January: Storm Watching

You’ll find nothing quite like Seaside’s bustling 1.5-mile-long Promenade anywhere else on the Oregon Coast. Locals call it “the Prom.” Come winter, it gives you a front-row seat to witness stunning storms, which lash the beach here — unblocked and full of energy. You can soak in the exciting wind and rain and loud surf, casting salt spray into the air as gulls soar in the drafts. (Bookmark this storm-watch site  for the most up-to-date information)

February: FisherPoets Gathering

For two decades, Astoria has hosted this famous shindig, which combines the sea with prose, poetry and music — attracting widespread accolades and large artists/audiences. Today, the event draws nearly 100 poets, musicians and raconteurs from both coasts of the U.S. commercial fishing societies — all gathered together in Astoria’s pubs, eateries and galleries to read, sing and tell stories. Feb. 23-25, 2018.

Seaside Brewing by Jason Kaplan

March: Pouring at the Coast

Beer lovers will rejoice for this ninth-annual tasting and food pairing at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. The festival features some 30 Oregon breweries pouring more than 60 delicious kinds of craft beer. The fun begins with a brewers dinner and ends with a homebrewers contest, with live music, local food vendors and good cheer between. The $20 admission includes a souvenir tasting glass and five drink tickets. You must be age 21 or older. March 17, 2018.

April: Soaring Heights

Humans have always dreamt of solo, non-powered flight, and paragliding is the closest we can get. The best thing about paragliding is the fact that almost anyone can do it. Foot-launched and light on gear — just a wing and a harness — its glory is its simplicity. Being carried by wind and soaring above the North Coast is something the folks at Discover Paragliding in Warrenton want everyone to experience. But if that sounds a little ambitious for your tastes, try a zipline tour with High Life Adventures — the harness assuages fear of heights while still delivering speedy thrills.

May: Lighthouse Views

This revered Tillamook Head Trail threads through rain forests of hemlock and Sitka spruce, then climbing and dropping across the spines and gullies of the iconic headland. Switchbacks take you to Hiker’s Camp and its little log shelters, fascinating World War II bunkers, and terrific viewpoints to catch a glimpse of the forlorn Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The trail can be hiked one way or there and back, departing from two spots: Tillamook Head Trailhead in Seaside and Indian Beach Trailhead (within Ecola State Park) in Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest by George Vetter / Cannon-Beach.net

June: Sandcastle Contest

Formally recognized as an Oregon Heritage Tradition, don’t miss the 54th-annual Sandcastle Contest Cannon Beach. Master sand shapers will join amateur enthusiasts to sculpt amazing 3-D art in the fine beige beach sand. Vying for cash prizes, the professionals will craft large, mesmerizing works — don’t forget your camera. Aside from the marquee Saturday event, the entire weekend will offer plenty of other activities to engage the whole family.

July: Paddle an Estuary

In Seaside, rent a canoe or launch your kayak to paddle its many waterways. A favorite is gliding around the Necanicum Estuary, a tour that offers views of submerged lands and a large tidal flat — all surrounded by dunes, Sitka spruce forest and quiet streets. This is where the Necanicum River and Neawanna Creek join and greet the Pacific, comprising a watery playground rich with wildlife-viewing opportunities.

August: Hike From Fort to Sea

A scenic 6.5-mile one-way ramble from the trailhead in the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, the Fort to Sea Trail takes you through one of Oregon’s most scenic settings — winding through quiet pine forests, crossing wooden paths over wetlands and waterways, passing a church and cow pastures, and finally bringing you to Sunset Beach.

Tide pools at Haystack Rock by Don Frank / Visit Seaside

September: Peer Into Tide Pools

Visit Ecola State Park and Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach during the lowest of tides to see all sorts of exciting gastropods, cephalopods and bivalves. Expect to get a glimpse of sea stars, hermit crabs, anemones, purple shore crabs, small sculpins, mussels, limpets, nudibranchs, sea urchins, chitons, sea cucumbers, red rock crabs, porcelain crabs and birds, including puffins … who knows what you might find? Never touch these delicate micro marine worlds. Only take photos.

October: Fungi Foraging

The moist conifer forests around Astoria and Warrenton are ideal growing grounds for a huge variety of edible mushrooms. Public lands are where you can legally pick small amounts for personal use — try your luck at Sunset Beach State Recreation Site, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Carnahan and Cullaby Lake county parks, Shively Park, and Fort Stevens State Park, where docents offer free guided Wild Mushroom Hikes, a good idea if you’re new to fungi foraging (which is prohibited in campgrounds and private property). Remember that many edible mushrooms have poisonous twins, so purchase an identification book and go with a trusty guide.

November: Stormy Weather Arts Festival

Home to more than a dozen art galleries and listed as one of “The 100 Best Art Towns in America” by author John Villani, Cannon Beach is also home to one of the North Coast’s most popular events. The 31st-annual Stormy Weather Arts Festival will maintain its exciting traditions of visual and performing arts, live music, artist receptions and demonstrations, raffles, gallery tours, fashion shows, great food and drink. Nov. 2-4, 2018.

December: Haystack Holidays

What actually starts in mid-November, the whole month of December hosts the bulk of Haystack Holidays, a slew of events designed to inspire a festive mood. Highlights include Black Friday’s Mimosa Madness, performances of “The Wizard of Oz,” holiday lights, window-display contests,, holiday foods from around the world, wreath-making classes, photos with Santa Claus, a lamp-lighting ceremony, and much more.

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