While the basic description may not sound too pleasant, this trail isn't quite as bad as a basic description of it may lead you to believe. It is a loop, mostly gravel, that runs a complete circle around and through the marshland slightly east of the middle of town, with an extension that runs a few blocks south through a somewhat preserved forest.
What is so unpleasant about this? Nothing really, except that if you read the basic description of the trail you find that the primary body of water is the Cannon Beach sewage treatment lagoon. However, this should not dissuade visitors as there really isn't any smell at all of the plant is operating correctly. As it is only two blocks from the center of the Cannon Beach tourist district, with hotels and restaurants and all that, you had better hope that it operates correctly!
The fact is that it is a local tourist attraction, there are benches along the trail in various locations, and it is common to see joggers and dog walkers here.
The lagoons are very popular with the local bird life, especially in winter. You will find bufflehead in particular like the lagoons, and there are always a few others around as well. This includes a few scattered scaup, some killdeer, marsh wrens, and an assortment of others. The sewage lagoons are surrounded by actual marsh land, which attracts other birds as well.
Due to the popularity of the location with bird life, an observation platform has been installed on the north side of the lagoons, near the public parking area.
The forest to the south of the plant, through which a branch of the trail goes, is second growth forest but it is second growth that is managed like an old growth forest. The plant life here is pretty much as you would see it up close in an old growth forest. It is possible to see the remains of big trees that used to inhabit the forest when it was an old growth forest. Here you will find such birds as the Pacific Wren.
Ironically, there are no restrooms at this location. However, many of the other public parking areas in Cannon Beach have public restroom facilities available.
There is a long term plan for there to be a network of trails connecting various locations in Cannon Beach. This trail is supposed to be the "First Pearl in the String" as it was declared during the opening ceremonies.
In addition to the photos seen here, I also have A Travelogue from March 9, 2013 that features a few other photos, including some of the bird life seen here on that day.
How to Get Here:
The north end of the trail is located at a public parking facility that is reasonably well marked. On the northern side of town, from one of the two major north-south streets through town head east on E 2nd Street. You will pass a block of commercial buildings, then a brushy area with a small public parking area on the south side of the road. After a block this turns into an expanded public parking area, and you will be able to see the lagoon. This is the northern end of this segment of the trail. Walk south until you find the gravel path leading in a circle around the lagoons.
The south end of this trail is located at Elm Street and Monroe Street. Monroe Street is a small residential east-west street that connects this area with the busy throughfares further west. It ends and Harrison Street, but it is possible to get further south on local streets by going through on Spruce - one block west. There is no local parking anywhere near here due to the small nature of the streets. However, if you are parked in the public parking area on the south side of town, or arrive on the bus from Tillamook or Portland, it is easy to access this location using only local roads and get off the main road by going east on Gower Road.
Ecola Creek runs along the northern edge of downtown Cannon Beach, and this little creek provides entertainment for people and some habitat for local wildlife. On the north edge of this creek you will find Les Shirley Park.
The park features two sections: the section closest to Highway 101 and Fir Street is pretty much only a large open space, a considerable portion of it being mowed grass. The area really isn't that pleasant due to the amount of traffic on Fir.
However, if you go west of Fir for a short distance, you will find that the park turns into a place that is far more pleasant due to the traffic noise becoming quite distant. Here you will find picnic tables, a nice open grass area, and access to the beach that runs along the north side of Ecola Creek.
The small public parking area for the park is located 1 block south of the intersection of Hemlock and 5th. The trail to the beach starts in this area and heads south somewhat from this parking area.
At the far north end of Hemlock, which is the main north-south street through downtown Cannon Beach, you will find a small park that offers beach access, a few educational signs, and a sculpture of a whale. Other than the sculpture, a drinking fountain, and some sheltered benches there is little else to this park.
But, it does offer a good public link between the streets of Cannon Beach and the beach itself.
Some views of the Park:
Photo 1: The sheltered area with a few benches under it, a drinking fountain to the left, and looking east towards 3rd Street, where it intersects Hemlock.
Photo 2: Here that Whale Sculpture: "Endangered Species".
Photo 3: The grand looking entrance to this tiny park, located at Hemlock and 3rd, at the north end of the downtown area of Cannon Beach.
Photo 4: The short access trail to the beach may be seen to the left of the signs, and continues down the slope slightly behind the signs, and therefore can't be seen from here. Please stay on the trail as doing otherwise causes decay of the delicate beach vegetation!
Photo 5: Here is another angle of the "Endangered Species" sculpture.
Its not really off the beaten path, but its an incredible journey into what appears to be a "Jurassic Park". My husband was very impressed with the moss covered trees and abundant fern. It was really cool.
At the far north end of the beach, Chapman point is often overlooked due to the fact that you have to cross Ecola Creek and wade across sand bar areas to get there. The point has many impressive caves and tunnels, and is a great place for birding, with Bird Islands just west of it. It is best explored at a minus tide. This photo was taken at a minus 1.7 tide. Don't get caught north of the point too long after the tide turns.
Again, not really off the beaten path, as its just south on the 101, but a beautiful area neverthesless.