Ecola State Park Things to Do
Completed in January of 1881 and replaced by an offshore buoy in 1957, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was at one time one of the most difficult lighthouses to crew. It is not unusual for waves to crash against the rock with such force they wash over the entire structure (see the photos on the web site listed at the bottom of this tip for one...more
After the climb from Indian Beach to the summit of Tillamook Head, you then have the option of dropping somewhat downhill to the edge of the cliff where a small viewpoint overlooks Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.Quite honestly, the views offered here of the lighthouse really are not that much better than the views offered from Ecola Point, but it is the...more
The Clatsop Loop Trail has two very different sections. One of these is a maintenance access road wide enough for golf carts or other small vehicles.It is the easier of the two trails that go to the summit of Tillamook Head, but that isn't saying too much. The trail / road climbs quite steeply from its point of origin to its end. The 1 1/8 mile...more
Yes, it does take a certain unique personality (some might say insanity) to surf on the Oregon coast, as the water is quite cold. Then, there are all those dangerous looking rocks, and the fact that the water is pretty rough and the undertow pretty dangerious, and the driftwood large and deadly.However, people do in fact surf here.One of those...more
While they are named the Sea Lion Rocks and while they are occasionally visited by sea lions, the fact is that these rocks have been set aside as a part of a national wildlife refuge because of the bird life that inhabits them every spring.Miles upon miles off the coast, the ocean is inhabited by thousands upon thousands of birds that never come to...more
This 1.5 mile (2.5km) trail wanders through the edge of the forest domain, where it descends abruptly to the ocean pounding the land below. There are several locations were the trail is carved out of the edge of the hillside, and these locations provide some spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding rock formations and coast line. These...more
Leading from the park entrance road at the southern entrance to Ecola State Park northward to Ecola Point, this trail is not a huge amount of elevation gain, but there are many short but steep sections to it, which make it difficult and slow to negotiate. Some places have staircases where the trail had to be built steep, but vandalism and weather...more
Starting at Indian Beach the Clatsop Loop Trail is approximately 2.6 miles in length for the entire loop, and comprises two very different types of pathway:+ One is the maintenance access road, which is large enough for golf cart sized vehicles to access the campground and pit toilet at the far end of the loop. This trail / road is gravel in most...more
While the picnic area that sits right next to the Indian Beach parking area has good views of the beach and the rocks, it is only slightly higher than the beach itself. Also, there is a lot of traffic here due to the beach and the parking lot.However, by taking the trail up the hill a very short distance, it is possible to get to a viewpoint that...more
As noted on my introduction page for Ecola State Park, the park features one of the most common vistas in Oregon tourist brochures, post cards, etc: the view of Haystack Rock and associated minor sea stack formations looking south from Ecola State Park.This view and more is what you come to on Ecola Point, which is the most southern parking area in...more
Somewhat north of the Ecola Point picnic area and viewpoints is the parking lot for Inidan Beach. This the the furthest north in the park it is possible to drive without a state parks maintenance vehicle.There are several picnic tables here, but there are not very many of them. If your plan is to sit in the sun and eat lunch, if it is a busy...more
Located just south of Ecola Point, this little beach is a nearly level bit of sand compressed between the rocky outcroppings along the ocean. Be very careful here, as high tide covers a huge portion of the sand, depending on the level of the high tide.During the wet times of the year, there is a small waterfall on the north side of beach area.The...more
Just a short distance beyond Canon beach's most popular tourist attraction is Ecola State park.For a bird's eye view of the rugged Oregon coastline, this vantage point cannot be beat.With various hiking trails, it offers year round recreation, camping and hiking.Bring a picnic lunch and sit by the paved walk enjoying the breath taking scenery on a...more
If you just come for the 'view', that's cool. You will recognize it when you see it. It is like Old Faithful in Yellowstone, the view of Yosemite Valley from the entrance tunnel or looking out over the Grand Canyon from the South Rim - you have seen it before. But having 'seen' it before doesn't detract from your experience here. For one thing, the...more
The Ecola Viewpoint trail ends on a wooden deck overlooking a set of sea stacks rising out of the waters below known as the Sea Lion Rocks. From this distance, sea lions being tan in color when on the rocks, are not always obvious. It is easy to mistake them for just more bird guano, but if you can't see the lions then you can see quite a variety...more
Immediately south of the Ecola Viewpoint parking lot, a trail descends to a large beach lying just north of Cannon Beach - Crescent Beach. My last visit here was with VT's own Mirliya who hails from Turkey. My explanation to her about how the beach got its name had do do with a homesick Turkish sailor's fondness for his nation's flag - but luckily...more
Indian Beach is a couple of miles north of the Ecola Viewpoint. This is a haven for surfers and kayakers. It is a great place to learn how to get your boat in and out of the surf zone - at least in the summer - besides offering a great opportunity for the would-be kayaker to explore the magical headlands of Tillamook Head. The beach is also the...more
Ecola State Park is a popular site for filiming movies.The Restaurant scene from The Goonies, the area behind the aquarium in Free Willy, and the school carnival in Kindergarten Cop were all filmed at the main picnic area. Deeper in the park, Indian Beach has been the location for movies such as Point Break (where it was supposed to be a...more
The road ends at Indian Beach, but you can continue on foot over Tillamook Head on to Seaside. At one point you are about a thousand feet above the ocean, but be forewarned that there aren't many grand views on this trail and the trail can be an exercise in bog walking - reminds me a bit of some of the walks I have taken in Scotland - at times. If...more
Ecola Park is all about the Excellent views of the surrounding beaches and sea Stacks. It is probably one of the most photographed seascapes in all of Oregon. Take a good few hours to enjoy this viewpoint. Soak in the scenery and if you are lucky enough to catch it on a clear day, as i did, count yourself fortunate.more
Tillamook rock lighthouse is one of the most spectacular places for a lighthouse to be constructed. Native Americans believed that spirits resided under the rock in tunnels. At any rate this lighthouse lives a fragile existence on its perch. Long sense abandoned, construction of the lighthouse is a story in itself. In 1879 laborers from outside the...more
I didn't see any Sea Lions at the 'Sea Lion Rocks.' I would certainly say that if you want to see Sea Lions you would stand a much better chance at the Sea Lion Caves near Florence, OR.The rocks are pretty interesting and typify the sea stacks that are so common along the Oregon Coast. I did see many birds flying around though and if you are into...more
The hike to Crescent Beach is about 1 1/2 miles and the hike to Indian Beach is a similar 1 1/4 miles. Both beaches are excellent for tide pools. These tide pools are common along the whole coast area and are great for the kids. I would imagine that Indian beach is less crowded since it is away from the main day use attraction which is the...more
Ecola State Park was named by William Clark from the Louis and Clark expedition. ‘Ekoli’ is a Chinook word meaning whale. The local Chinook peoples explained to the expedition in 1806 that a beached whale was located on what is now Indian Beach.The park itself boasts 9 miles of excellent Pacific Coast shoreline and 8 miles of the OCT (Oregon Coast...more
Ecola State Park Transportation
Ecola State Park occupies a narrow band of land along the coast, which was preserved from development essentially because it was too rough for anyone else to want it.
Therefore, it should be understood that the state had very few options when it came to trying to build access to the park. While highway 101 runs down the east side of the park, the land between highway 101 and the park is prvately owned.
The north side of the park is very steep rocks, and building a road from there would be a major undertaking. Also, there is a lot of private land from that direction through which to construct a road of any sort.
The Road Everyone Takes: From the South
Therefore, the only road access to the park is from the south.
The access road is from the northern highway 101 exit into Cannon Beach, which is approximately 3 miles (5 km) south of the highway 26 - highway 101 interchange. Following the signs to the park, you turn onto 5th, then turn north onto a very narrow residential road named Ecola Park Road. Keep following this road north, and as it gets more and more narrow and fewer and fewer houses along it, it will eventually become the entrance to the state park.
From downtown Cannon Beach, you need to go north on Fir, left onto 5th, then north on Ecola Park road.
Watch for Pedestrians, Bicyclists, and people driving WAY too FAST on this narrow road as there is no other access to the park and there are many blind curves in the road. See photo 3.
Due to the rock formations and the stability of the slope (not to mention the cost of a wider road) the state park road from the northern edge of Cannon Beach into the park itself is a VERY NARROW ROAD, and has a 15 mile per hour speed limit for some very good reasons. The road is extremely narrow (see photo 3), large vehicles are strongly warned against traveling the road if possible, and head on collision near misses are very common because people drive far too fast for the narrow winding road and the potential of oncoming traffic. Be that as it may, I have never actually seen or even heard of a head-on collision on the road into the park or its equally narrow road from Ecola Point to Indian Beach - just a lot of very close calls.
Once inside the park, there are two parking areas: Ecola Point and Indian Beach.
Walking In: Another Alternative
Due to the cost of trying to build roads in this area, and after all it is a recreational area not a highway right of way, there are many places you can get to within the park on foot. This includes an entire trail from Seaside (on the north side of the park) to the north side of Cannon Beach.
The photo of the map of the park, which has been uploaded at full resolution and is the first photo for this tip, should give you some good idea of the formation of the hiking trails if you view the full size version of the image. You may need to enable popups or save the image to your computer and then view it in a separate viewer to get the full detail of the map. It shows the road north from the entrance to Ecola Point Viewpoint and continuing to Indian Beach, plus the trails going from the south side of the park all the way north to Cannon Beach. Mile markers are included.
It is approximately 4 miles (6.6 km) from the south side of Seaside to the camping area / Tillamook Rock Viewpoint. By trail it is approximately 2.25 miles (3.75 km) from Ecola Point to Indian Beach. From the Indian Beach parking area to the camping area / Tillamook Rock viewpoint it is approximately 1.25 miles (2 km).
The trail from Ecola Viewpoint and Picnic Area is fairly rough in some areas, and in spring snow melt conditions will have heavy mud in many places. Also, if a large storm has happened that year, parts of the trail may be blocked due to downed trees until the park staff has a chance to remove them from the trail. Some of these are large and may present a very significant obstacle.
To get to the park from Cannon Beach, it is necessary to walk north in town along Fir Street, turn onto 5th after the bridge, and then walk north on the very narrow and dangerous Ecola Park Road until you actually get to the park entrance. From the actual entrance to the park the walking trail separates hikers from road traffic, but the residential street is almost as narrow and people still drive way too fast on it for the size road it is and the many narrow corners. See photo 3.
I will not tell you that accessing Ecola State Park from Cannon Beach is impossible, and in fact I have met several people who have done this, and in fact I have done this. However, be prepared for it to be a hazardous trip with the potential for a lot of conflict with auto traffic that completely ignores all sense of road safety on narrow roads.
See my Cannon Beach to Ecola Point Trail tip for more information.
The state parks web site features a full brochure about the park which is in a printable format, and it features the map shown here.
Like many of the most popular state parks, Ecola State Park also has its own set of brochures and maps available from the literature rack in the park (see photo 2). These may be helpful for finding your way around inside the park.
Ecola State Park itself does not have a direct transit route that serves it. On the other hand, communities on the north and south side of the park have regular but very infrequent service.
Cannon Beach on the south side of the park is served several times a day by the Tillamook County bus service from a route originating in Tillamook.
Current fares as of this writing are: Tillamook to Cannon Beach is $4.50 one way as it crosses two fare zones. Downtown Portland to Tillamook is $15 one way.
Cannon Beach is also served directly from downtown Portland by NorthwestPoint service, which also serves Seaside (on the north side of the park - though a fair distance from the Ecola State Park trailhead) and Astoria. This service connects with Amtrak trains in Portland as well as the Portland Greyhound station.
Sunset Empire Transit serves Cannon Beach, Seaside and connects them with Astoria.
See my Cannon Beach Public Transit tip for more information on the Cannon Beach transit services.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
- National/State Park