Hiking from Indian Beach to Hiker's Camp or across Tillamook Head to Seaside are just two options available at Ecola State Park. There'is a great small beach for playing, building sandcastles, and surfing. For the sure footed, the rocky south section of the beach has big basalt boulders for scrambling over and lots of tidal pools populated with anemones and starfish.
About the only downside of this location is its popularity. The first time we went (on a weekend), there was a wait for the parking lot. Given the fog at the time, it was an easy decision to bag it and head to Saddle Mountain.
The second time was after Labor Day and we had a better idea of what we were getting into. Parking is limited at Indian Beach, which was our target, though there is more parking available at Ecola Point and it's not a long hike to the Clatsop Loop trailhead.
A twisting access road into the park runs through a dense canopy of spruce, Douglas fir, cedar, and alder and a forest floor of fern and sorrel that sets the bar relatively high from the start. The scenery is gorgeous even without the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.
Limited camping is an option at Hiker's camp near Tillamook Rock Lighthouse viewpoint. You'll need a special camping permit and must park in the designated parking set aside for campers. Firewood at the camp is available for a small fee. Water and pit toilets are located nearby. Three rustic log shelters with four bunks each are a nice amenity considering the 75 inches of annual rainfall.
The hike is short and takes a leisurely 45 minutes to the Hiker's camp, which is ideal if you want to head down to the coast in the late afternoon and set up camp quickly. Pack up in the morning and continue on to Seaside. With a little advance planning, you could check into getting a cab in Seaside to return to the trailhead to pick up the car rather than backtracking if you want to save time. Or just plan on a round trip. It's a gorgeous hike and well worth the energy.
Permits & Passes: $5 day use fee. Camping requires a special permit with parking.
Distance: From the trailhead, it's a 2.5 mile round trip to to the Tillamook Lighthouse viewpoint and back.
Elevation gain: 800 ft. to Hiker's camp, with an additional 600 ft. to Tillamook Head
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate
Season: Year around, with summers most popular of course.
From Sunset Highway (Hwy 26) heading west, take the turnoff to Hwy 101 south. Take the first Cannon Beach exit and follow the signs to Ecola State Park. At the ranger station, pay your day use fee and go to Indian Beach for parking. The trailhead is a short walk from the parking area.
Disclaimer: The trail map shown here is for information only. Print the State of Oregon brochure for more information.
Oregon Parks and Recreation: Clatsop Loop Trail— All the official detail for camping and hiking. (PDF)