The trails throughout Oswald West are some of the prettiest you'll find in the coast range. This is coastal Oregon at its best -- lush old growth forest with numerous creeks and quaint CCC era bridges. They even have a suspended bridge that the kids (and adults) will love. The short hike to the beach and then along it to Blumenthal falls is the perfect morning constitutional. If you're not a slave to the wave there are also longer day hikes that will take you up to some lovely vistas.
Warm sun and fine sand on a long, shallow beach with creeks running nearby. These are the ingredients for a perfect afternoon of building sand castles. For those with children beside them or still within it is hard to find anything more therapeutic than spending a couple of hours creating dreamscapes out of sand in a beautiful setting.
Use yogurt cups or coffee mugs to build a perimeter wall and top it with drip-castle crenelations. With a seashell portcullis and seagull feather banners in the turrets you will be the lord of an entire realm ... at least until the tide returns. There is something about ephemeral art, especially in the presence of the infinity of the ocean, that reminds one of the ultimate unimportance of the human endeavour in the grand scheme of things. How is it that this awareness only enhances our appreciation of the short time we've been given here?
Bring your beach blanket and basket and set yourself up for a picnic in style. Short Sands has all of the features one expects from a NW beach -- sand, rocks, driftwood, forest, creeks, headlands, tide pools, marine mammals and plenty of room to spread out. Throw in the surfing show and you've got yourself a winner. Even if you're just cruising along 101 it's the perfect place to stop for a couple of hours.
When the tide is out you can explore the tidepools at either end of the beach. Even if you've fogotten your Tevas the sandy bottom makes it easy to wade over to the rocky homes of sculpins, crabs, sea stars and their bivalve prey.
There are a series of wide spots in Highway 101 along the cliffs of Oswald West State Park. This is one of the more spectacular views available from Highway 101 on this section of the coast. They exist entirely on the west side of the road, so if it is a busy weekend your best best is to be headed south through this area. This allows you to get back on your trip without having to fight traffic going both directions.
There are no restrooms or other facilities here, other than a wide spot in the road.
A number of the parking areas are connected together with a narrow paved pathway that runs next to the road. This allows you to get good views from locations that are not wide enough to park. It also allows you to get from one of the less congested parking areas to the more congested parking areas without having to get extremely close to traffic.
Viewpoints on the south side of the park overlook the community of Manzanita and the peninsula that forms Nehalem Bay and Nehalem Bay State Park.
If you want a safe way of getting above the crowd and photographing the view from a larger vehicle without driving, bus service operates several times per day between Cannon Beach and Manzanita. There are no official bus stops in the park, however. Tillamook County Transit does operate this bus route as a "variable route" so it is possible to request stops outside the normal route, but there is no safe place to wait for the bus going north - you would only be able to depart and arrive by buses running south through here.
Smuggler's Cove is a name that can be found repeatedly around the World - in fact, there is more than one along the Oregon Coastline - but this might be the only such cove that is also home to the Short Sand Beach. This is one of those perfect idyll places upon which you just want to sit and watch the World at. The headlands of Cape Falcon to the north and Neahkanie Mountain to the south, perfectly frame the little beach. At the same time, the surf coming into the beach is fairly regular and predictable making it a great venue for surfers who flock here. There is always a regular train of surfers walking the paths between the parking lots on the highway above, down to the beach, surfboards tucked under their arms. On the edges of the beach, at low tide, one can investigate the creatures of the inter-tidal zone in pools left behind. One can also just hang out on the beach and watch the waves ... and hopefully, the sun. In winter, storms bring waves in that cover the beach, quite in contrast to the scene on a quiet August afternoon.
You can reach Cape Falcon by foot either from the trailhead parking on US 101 or from Short Sand Beach by turning north on the Oregon Coastal Trail - there is a sign pointing towards Cape Falcon. The trail is about four miles out and back from the highway and gains about 300 feet over sometimes muddy terrain. You get a very nice view over Smuggler's Cove with Neahkanie Mountain looming above. From the cliffs, I have seen sea lions cavorting in the waters below, as well as, the odd whale or two.