Segments of three popular beach-adjacent trails—including a section that leads to one of the most spectacular summits along the coast—will remain closed for the next two years due to damage sustained in last September’s windstorm.
Downed trees continue to block a route at Cape Lookout State Park about 10 miles west of Tillamook and two portions of trails at Oswald West State Park south of Cannon Beach. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department says it will take extensive work to reopen those paths, because in the hardest-hit areas, up to 90 percent of the vegetation—including hemlock, Douglas fir and Sitka spruces as tall as 140 feet—have already fallen or are in danger of toppling over.
That means the earliest anyone can head out on the identified trails is spring of 2023.
The affected routes in Oswald West State Park include the 1.4-mile Arch Cape section of the Arch Cape to Cape Falcon Trail, from the north trailhead to the crossing at Highway 101, as well as a 1.6-mile stretch of the North Neahkahnie Mountain Trail from Highway 101, where you begin to switchback through salal and then a dense forest before reaching the summit’s rocky bluff overlooking Manzanita.
At Cape Lookout State Park, the entire North Trail that connects the day use area to the Cape Trail is off limits. Fortunately, hikers can still access the Cape Trail—a 5-mile out-and-back that takes you out to the very tip of the headland some 400 feet above the sea with spectacular views—as well as with the South Trail.
The same powerful gusts that fueled historic wildfires in other parts of the state last Labor Day weekend took a huge toll on many of Oregon’s state parks, including approximately 185 acres in these two locations. Heavy rainfall in fall and winter caused further damage.
Restoring the landscape will require removing downed and dangerous trees by helicopter within 200 feet on either side of the trails. And given all the wildfire cleanup the entire state is facing, those chopper crews are simply booked. Oregon Parks and Recreation says the soonest it could schedule the work was this winter.
Oregon Parks and Recreation is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Oregon Department of Forestry, private consultants and volunteers to help map the damage and plan for a safe reopening. Once the trails are clear, ground crews are expected to begin rebuilding those paths, a process that’s expected to take a year.