Nehalem Bay State Park has a concessions provider that rents horses for use on the several horse trails through the southern end of the park, plus riding on the beach. Other than the fact that the horse rental concession is only available in the summer, there is very little information about this program on the state parks web site.
There are apparently other concessions that take their horses to the state park from nearby communities to provide additional horse riding options on the trails.
The current concessions provider for the horses in the state park itself is Oregon Beach Rides, whose web site is shown below. Their headquarters is in Manzanita - just north of the state park. The in-park concessions (summer only) is located at the south side of the day use area at the far southern end of the paved road into the park. Follow the signs to the day use area and keep heading south. You will find the horse rentals on the south side of the parking lot. See photo 2.
The current concessions provider requires a non-refundable $55 reservation fee if making a reservation, and then payment of the "balance" upon arrival. Final prices range from $75 per person for a one-hour beach and trail ride to $400 per person for a full-day ride.
Horse riders are only allowed in certain locations in order to prevent significant damage to the beach and surrounding grasslands. Horse trails are reasonably well marked. See photo 3.
If you are coming to the Oregon Coast, and visiting a state park with access to the beach, it is natural that the beach would be one of the primary things to do at that state park.
Nehalem Bay State Park is no different than several dozen other Oregon coastal state parks with beach access, with only certain details being different. Between the campgrounds at the north end and the North Jetty of the Nehalem Bay there is approximately 3 miles (5 km) of Pacific Ocean beach, plus ragged and less accessible beach and mudflat space on the Nehalem Bay side of the park.
Access to the Pacific Ocean beach is provided by several trails that connect the camping areas and day use areas to the beach through the grassy sand dunes that protect the park from the Ocean wind and waves. These trails exist on the camping loops between camping sites B36 and B32 and between E40 and E44. There is a trail directly west from the day use area that connects to the beach, as well as several further south along the peninsula which connect to the horse trail that runs from the day use and horse camp areas directly south to the end of the Peninsula. Other than the driftwood that has washed ashore here, there is little obstruction along the beach (such as the huge volcanic rock remains that may be found along many other Oregon Coast beaches). Thus, it is an ideal beach for the horse riding along the beach.
Once you are on the beach, it can be quite difficult to find your way back to the campground, but there are several landmarks to help you. The most important of these are posts at the end of the trails, which have written on them "ABC" and "DEF" for the trails to camping loops A,B,C and D,E,F. See photo 2 for an example of what to look for to find your way back.
In the distance it is possible to see various rocky features of the Oregon Coast, including the steep cliffs north of Manzanita and Cape Falcon, and looking south in the far distance the rugged rocks at Cape Mears. From here it is possible to walk north to Manzanita and a little bit beyond, until you are blocked by the cliffs north of town.
The beach here at Nehalem Bay is absolutely not protected at all from direct wind and waves coming directly from the Ocean. Once you cross over the sand dune grass lands that separate the forested central area of the state park from the Ocean beach, you will most likely feel the entire force of the wind against you. This is the way things are on the Oregon beaches except for a few that are somewhat protected by nearby peninsulas and rock outcroppings.
Notice the very large driftwood that has washed ashore here. Logs floating in the water can be an extreme hazard, so watch what you are doing. This is especially true if you are one of those hardy few who grab their surfboards and run out into the water here. Contact with one of these huge logs in the water can be dangerous or deadly as it (and you) are thrown about in the strong currents and waves.
I've heard that undertow can be a big problem here as well, though generally I avoid going out into the water here because the ocean along the Oregon Coast is just too rough in most locations.
There are several trails that wander through the low-growing coastal forest on the peninsula that separates Nehalem Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The one that is simply labeled as "Bike Trail" is a 1.75 mile (3 km) trail which loops from the entrance to the campground (near the Meeting Hall) over to the edge of Nehalem Bay, and back to the campground at the outdoor amphitheater near the southern end of camping loop C.
This loop used to be slightly longer, but severe flooding due to recent changes in the speed of water coming from the Nehalem River (mostly due to the lack of trees due to logging, and thus the ground is no longer able to absorb heavy rains very well) have caused the Nehalem Bay segment to be washed out. Thus, the former paved segment of the trial has now been replaced by a short gravel segment that runs between the end of the Nehalem Bay landing strip and the beach along Nehalem Bay.
Other than this short segment of gravel trail, the entire loop is paved and reasonably free of defects in the paved surface. It is approximately four feet wide and has some sharp blind curves, so it isn't something on which those with a need for speed are going to want to risk themselves (or the lives of anyone they come across).
The segment along Nehalem Bay provides great access to the beach there, but otherwise the views from the trail are of the dense low growing coastal forest. There is some potential to run across small bird life there, and even in February I ran across quite a few, including chickadees (while common, always fun to watch forage for food in the trees), bushtit, and golden-crowned kinglet.
My husband thoughtfully brought his Field Guide of North American birds with him to the coast. Unfortunately I heard way more birds than I saw. There were crows all over the campground. We also had a White-Crowned Sparrow that frequented our camp site. I spied a few swallows too, that might have been tree swallows or possibly bank swallows (they disappeared over the sand dunes before I could get a good look at them). I also saw cormorants but they were too high up for me to tell what kind without binoculars. Gulls, of course, aslo made an appearance.
There are disappointingly few trails in the campground itself. Most just lead the the beach. That's fine though. Climb over the sand dunes and get out to the beach and walk it. You'll find people doing this rain or shine. Look out at the ocean and let it mesmerize you.
Keep in mind that people don't always have their dogs on leashes so dogs may run up to you. And people don't always clean up after their dogs, which is disgusting.
The Oregon Coast provides excellent kite flying conditions. Bring a kite or two (or find a kite retailer on the coast--they're all over). My cousins bought smaller kites for $20. They come with two strings that allow a person to attempt tricks.
The first day we flew kites it was so furiously windy the kites seemed like they were possessed! They would zip around and then dive to the beach. My husband had to dive out of the way a few times which casued him to get sand everywhere. My cousin was nearly taken out by a kite that was being held by his son-in-law (not a good thing to do in the first year of marriage to my cousin's daughter). Bigger kites would have been more stable, I think. Thankfully, no one was injured. I laughed so hard though I felt like I did 200 sit-ups. And when it's this windy, I wouldn't recommend kite flying for little kids (say, under 8 years old).
The second day we flew kites the wind was calmer and we were better able to control the kites. Though the kites fell out of the sky a couple of times because the wind completely died.