Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Embark on a coastal adventure filled with lush forest, stunning scenery and abundant wildlife

Hart's Cove and Chitwood Falls
Hart’s Cove and Chitwood Falls © Jenni Denekas

Cascade Head is one of the most stunning destinations on the Oregon coast – and that is saying something. Although not officially part of the Oregon Coast Trail, you would be missing out if you did not hike here, and I would be remiss for not writing about it.

There are a few different trails snaking up and over Cascade Head, but Hart’s Cove is my personal favorite. On this hike, you will pass under massive old growth Sitka spruce en route to a wildflower-studded promontory overlooking Hart’s Cove and sea stacks. You will enjoy clear views of 75-foot Chitwood Falls as it plunges off a basalt cliff into the cove’s churning waters. Pack binoculars to view sea lions, a host of bird species, and other wildlife.

We have The Nature Conservancy to thank for this beautiful hike – and for preserving a lot of other stunning natural locations. Please consider a donation.

Trail Data

Round Trip:  5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Season: The trail is open from July 15 through December 31
Features: Forest, Old Growth, Views, Ocean Views, Waterfall, Wildlife, Creeks, Wildflowers, Meadows
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: NW Forest Pass advised, and you should also consider a donation to the Nature Conservancy
Usage: Hikers, No Dogs
Maps: USGS: Neskowin, OR
Agency: US Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy

Hike Description

Hart's Cove Trailhead
The trailhead is unmarked, but the trail itself is well-defined. © Jenni Denekas

Set off from the parking lot on the well-defined but unmarked trail. You will descend 0.8 miles of forested switchbacks before the trail levels out and crosses a footbridge over Cliff Creek.

From here you will wind your way through windswept coastal rainforest thick with salal, huckleberries, kinnikinnick, and several fern varieties, and dotted with massive old growth trunks. Listen for sea lions; their loud barks carry remarkably well from the ocean.

In about 0.9 miles you will enter the Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area, an area set aside for the study of ecosystem dynamics. Just past the Research Natural Area sign you will reach a bench overlooking the next headland – and a bit of Hart’s Cove. The view is rather obscured by trees but it is a pleasant spot to relax nevertheless.

Hart's Cove Trail
On the way to the Hart’s Cove viewpoint, you will pass through lush, old-growth, coastal rain forest. © Jenni Denekas

Continue along the trail as it snakes downhill. After about 0.5 miles you will cross Chitwood Creek. The old bridge was washed out when I last hiked this (fall 2011), but there are usually logs or boards placed across the small stream.

You will ascend a gentle incline for about 0.3 miles before you emerge from the trees into a grassy meadow, which is laden with wildflowers in summer. There are many small tracks that arc through this vast landscape, but you should follow the most well-defined trail. This will lead you toward a small stand of Sitka spruce.

In a moment, you will enjoy stunning views of Chitwood Falls as it plummets into the turquoise waters of Hart’s Cove.

Hart's Cove
Hart’s Cove and sea stacks offer a stunning reward at the turnaround point for the hike. © Jenni Denekas

Just to the side of the cove are several sea stacks and a rocky beach—which, upon careful inspection, will reveal hordes of sunning sea lions. Even if you can’t see these brown pinpricks clearly, you will readily hear their loud barks over the crashing waves. Bald eagles and a host of sea birds also can be spotted here.

Once you have thoroughly soaked in the stunning views and wildlife sightings, retrace your steps—and enjoy the final, grueling climb to the trailhead!

How to Get There

Thru-Hiking? Strategize your transportation to this trailhead on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions: Highway 101 North from Newport and Lincoln City: 1. Follow Highway 101 north to the junction of 101 and Highway 18. 2. Continue on Highway 101 for 3.8 miles. 3. Turn left onto an unmarked gravel road (Forest Service Road 1861). 4. Follow the twisting, gravel road 4.1 miles to its terminus at a small parking lot. (3.3 miles in, you will pass the marked trailhead for the Cascade Head Trail; the trailhead for Hart’s Cove is 0.8 miles farther).

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.069391, -123.978417

View another stunning hike on Cascade Head, from OregonHikers.org!

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

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