Home > Hiking Trails > Camping on the Oregon Coast Trail – Part 1

(This is a speculative post which was posted before any of my Oregon Coast Trail Thru Hikes. Keep that in mind as you read it.)

Another hiker recently sent me a message asking about camping on the Oregon Coast Trail. Since most people camp at the Oregon State Parks they wondered what my plans were since the parks were only open from Mid April to September and I would be hiking before this start date.

As it turns out there are 17 Oregon State Parks, almost all of which offer low cost hiker/biker campsite. 9 of which are open year round, 7 are open for camping only during the previously mentioned mid-April to September time period, and one, Oswald State Park has discontinued camping alltogether.

There are also Forest Service Campgounds, 20 to be exact. They are cheaper than the State Parks but do not offer the hot water, showers or even electricity. Most of these are found in the central Oregon coast area but can be overrun by four wheelers during the busy season. There are also county parks and private campgrounds along the coast if you are looking for an alternative, albeit a more expensive one.

All of that is good to know. That I’ll always have a legal spot to camp if I so choose.

But legal is a flexible term.

Beach camping, what I plan on doing a lot of, is allowed in Oregon. Not between the Columbia River and the Necanicum River just after Gearhart. (The first 20 or so miles of a southbound hike.) Not next to State Parks. Or cities or towns with laws against such activity. But you can camp for free on National Forest Land if you are at least 200 feet from any man-made structure like a road.

But what does that all mean?

Without a guidebook it is hard for me to visualize or plan ahead regarding how many miles to do per day in order to reach a safe and legal campsite.

So assuming a southbound hike you would start out at the hiker/biker campsites at Fort Stevens State Park where camping is year round. Then, because of the beach camping restrictions you would either hike to Seaside which has a lovely hostel, or push an extremly long day into Ecola State Park (28 miles) which has three small Adirondack-style shelters. Each of these shelters sleeps 4 and they are meant for Oregon Coast Trail hikers. There is also a vault toilet but no potable water there so be prepared to pack it in.

If one was so inclined as to stealth camp and was unwilling to hike all the way to Seaside or beyond then the Sunset Beach State Recreation Site where the OCT meets the Fort-to-Sea Trail seems like a decent option.

Then it is on to Oswald West State Park, which has eliminated its previous primitive camping option. Though I do hear that there are a few decent stealth camping sites especially around the Cape Falcon Area.

Only a short distance away is Nehalem Bay State Park where camping is open year round. The next State Park, Cape Lookout State Park, which also happens to have hiker/biker campsites open year round is about 40 miles away.

Roughly halfway in between is camping at Trask River County Campground. Though there does look to be a lot of stealth camping opportunities along the way.

The next stretch, as suggested by the Oregon Coast Trail maps provided by the state show Devils Lake Recreation Area (year round) as the next possible caming option. That is over 33 miles from Cape Lookout State Park and not an option for thru hikers. But it seems like such a shame to miss the Bob Straub State Park part way through those miles and not to stealth there. That leaves only an 18 mile day into Devils Lake Recreation Area.

After that a 20 mile day gets you into Beverly Beach State Park (camping year round), and only another 10 miles into South Beach State Park (camping year round) where you’ll probably have to resupply in Newport anyway.

 

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