Cape Falcon Trail: Hike to this Ancient Lava Headland

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The Northern Oregon coast is full of breathtaking beauty- rugged cliffs, dramatic sea stacks, and lush coastal forests. One of the best ways to explore this incredible landscape is on foot, like, for example, along the Cape Falcon Trail.

This hike offers a little bit of everything- an old-growth forest, ocean views, and even a chance to spot some gnarly surfers along the way. So if you’re up for a northern Oregon Coast adventure, look no further- here’s everything you need to know about the Cape Falcon Trail.

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Pssst… if you’re looking for more awesome Oregon Coast hikes, check out our post about 11 trails near Cannon Beach. You also might want to check out:

About Cape Falcon Trail

Location: The trailhead is located here, in Oswald West State Park.

Length: 4.2 miles

Elevation gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Fee: None

Cape Falcon from Short Sands Beach

How to Get to Cape Falcon Trail

To access the trailhead, you’ll drive along the stunning Oregon Coast Highway (either north or south depending on which direction you’re coming from) to this parking lot in Oswald West State Park, which is approximately 14 minutes south of Cannon Beach and approximately 44 minutes north of Tillamook. I’d recommend plugging the trailhead into your GPS app of choice and paying close attention as you get close. The parking lots are just on the side of the highway (both to the east and west) and there isn’t any obvious signage regarding either the park or the trail, so it’s pretty easy to miss.

Also, cell signal is super spotty along the coastline, so I’d recommend downloading offline maps on your Google Maps app (and All Trails, for that matter) while you have service to make sure you don’t get lost along the way.

Note that this is the parking lot for several trailheads in Oswald, as well as for Short Sands Beach, one of the most popular places to surf along the Oregon coast. As such, the parking lot can get quite crowded, especially on weekends between Memorial Day through Labor Day- so I’d recommend coming early if you’re not in the mood to vulture for a spot. Once you’re parked, you’ll walk along the highway about 0.2 miles north until you see signs for the Cape Falcon trailhead.

Man standing on Short Sands Beach along the Oregon coast

What to expect along Cape Falcon Trail

The trail immediately kicks off by slowly gaining elevation as you climb under the cathedral of a magnificent forest, with sitka spruces, western hemlock, and western red cedar trees towering overhead. As you climb along, the sound of the highway will fade and instead, you may hear the nearby Short Sands Creek that runs alongside the beginning portion of the trail and the songs of the coastal birds that dwell in the forest. 

At approximately half a mile in, you’ll reach a junction- if you go left, you’ll make the steep climb down to Short Sands Beach and if you go right, you’ll continue along the Cape Falcon Trail. I’d suggest you save Short Sands for your return trip and continue right. Here, you’ll be officially walking on the Oregon Coast Trail, a 425 mile trail that follows along the entirety of the state’s craggy coastline.

Coastal forest along Oregon coast hike

Continue hiking through the forest and eventually, you’ll start getting peek-a-boo glimpses of Short Sand Beach and Smuggler’s Cove below, as well as the basalt cliffs (the remnants of ancient lava flows) of Cape Falcon itself.

Around 1.5 miles in, you’ll follow the path downhill and over Blumenthal Creek- shortly thereafter, you should see a small side trail on the left-hand side that leads to the upper tier of Blumental Falls. This unique waterfall cascades down a basalt cliff onto the rocky shoreline below- although word to the wise: it can dry up in the summertime- there was no falls to speak of when my husband, Justin, and I visited in July!

Back on the main trail, you’ll take a couple more switchbacks until the trees lining the cliffside will spread out a bit, providing you with excellent vantage points of the beach. Be sure to pause for a second to watch those hearty surfers catching some waves in the Pacific’s chilly waters. Continuing on, you’ll reach a few meadows, thick with salal- in fact, the very last meadow you’ll cross before reaching the cape is so incredibly dense, it feels like you’re climbing through an inhospitable jungle. 

But soon, you’ll pop out on the bluff, towering over the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, with expansive views of Smuggler’s Cove (which, on an unrelated note, sounds like something straight of The Goonies!) and Neahkahnie Mountain to the south and rocky headlands to the north. And if you didn’t think that was scenic enough, just wait- in the summer, Cape Falcon’s hills will be blanketed with colorful wildflowers, like English daisies, silverweed, and tansy ragwort. There’s several viewpoints along the cape’s cliffside- find one you like to have lunch or a snack, take a breather, and get prepared to follow your footsteps back.

Woman overlooking Smuggler's Cove from the Cape Falcon Trail

When to hike Cape Falcon Trail

The most popular time to visit Cape Falcon and the rest of the Oregon coast is in the summertime (July through September), when it actually kinda feels like beach weather here (it can reach the upper 70s or 80s during this period) and the skies are usually clear.

View of Short Sands Beach from Cape Falcon Trail in Oregon

While you’ll find the maximum amount of surfers on Short Sands Beach in the summer, the best waves actually hit the beach in January each year (which is, coincidentally, also when of the times in the year that 20,000 gray whales migrate past Cape Falcon on their way from the Arctic waters of Alaska to the warm lagoons of Baja Mexico)- so don’t totally rule out visiting in the winter! In fact, in my opinion, the low-hanging clouds and fog of the winter season can actually accentuate the Oregon Coast’s rugged beauty.

Add in the fact that it never gets too cold along the coastline and the fact that you’ll avoid the summer crowds (and expensive prices), and I actually think visiting “off-season” can be awesome. Just throw on a rain jacket (like this one for men and this one for women) and some waterproof hiking boots and you should be good to go!

Tips for Cape Falcon Trail

  • If you come in the winter or spring (or even on a particularly wet week in the summertime), be prepared for mud- LOTS of mud. Waterproof hiking boots (like these for men and these for women) are absolutely essential to wear, and trekking poles can be helpful, as well, to provide better traction on the slick trail. It may also be worth leaving an extra pair of pants in the car, in case any particularly soupy mud sloshes on you on the trail.

    Even when hiking in the height of summertime, I’d still strongly recommend wearing hiking boots on the trail- many parts of the trail are pretty eroded and there’s lots of roots and rocks to bang your toes on!
  • While this hike isn’t super challenging, it’s still over four miles long with some elevation gain- so be sure to bring along some water. To be good to the planet and to cut down on wasting money on bottled water, Justin and I both have giant Nalgene bottles that we take everywhere, from international trips to road trips in our RV and, yup, even the bluffs of Cape Falcon!
  • The popularity of the Oregon coast has exploded in recent years, with more and more people excited about outdoor adventures. More visitors means there’s higher risks that this beautiful land and its woodland inhabitants may be harmed by the higher traffic. So while you’re enjoying the Cape Falcon Trail, be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles, like disposing of waste properly (pack it in, pack it out) and traveling and camping on durable services (stay on the trail). The last one is super important actually- taking shortcuts down sloped coastal land can actually lead to landslides!

Where to Stay Near Cape Falcon Trail

If you’re in planning mode for your trip to the Oregon coast, you’re in luck! I’ve spent a many weekends along the stunning coastline (I’m actually just a little obsessed with it) and have the lowdown on the best places to call home during your trip.

I’d either recommend staying in Cannon Beach, a charming town with adorable beach shacks and arguably the most photogenic sea stack in the world, Haystack Rock, or Manzanita, an itty bitty town bursting with hip coffee shops, yoga studios, and a whole lot of artsy vibes

Couple sitting around beach campfire at Cannon Beach

For Cannon Beach, some accommodations to consider are:

  • Hallmark Resort and Spa: This place is as close to Haystack Rock as you can possibly get, is pet-friendly (in 50% of its rooms), AND offers hot cookies at check-in. What’s not to love?
  • Inn at Cannon Beach: Imagine a bougie summer camp for adults, complete with a big ol’ firepit. Plus free breakfast!
  • The Ocean Lodge: Yet another fabulous location within walking distance of Cannon Beach’s downtown, fireplace in every room, and MORE home-baked cookies. Yes, please.

For Manzanita, check out Coast Cabins, which kind of embodies the town of Manzanita- you’ll get a complimentary wine and beverage service at check-in, fresh fruit and chocolate in every cabin, a fire pit, AND a hot tub. The perfect cozy spot to unwind during your time on the coast!


The Cape Falcon Trail is one of my favorite hikes on the coast- so enjoy? Let me know about your experience with this hike in the comments below!

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