By Shellie Bailey-Shah
One of the best ways to take in Seaside’s natural beauty is to explore the beaches, forests and nearby mountains. The sheer variety of trails in and around town means you have plenty of options, from kid-friendly strolls on the Prom to more strenuous climbs with stunning views. Don’t know where to start? Here are a four favorite hikes for you to choose from. You’ll find even more hikes with detailed trail descriptions here.
For young kids. Yes, the walk along Seaside’s Promenade is more of a stroll than a hike, but it’s a longstanding family favorite. It’s 1.5 miles at length and completely paved, so it’s perfect for strollers. Start your walk just before sunset so that you can appreciate those stunning ocean views. Park at the Tides by the Sea at the end of Avenue U in south Seaside or at the west end of 12th Avenue in north Seaside.
For nature lovers. The Mill Ponds Trail (also known as Chapman Ponds) provides hikers with excellent opportunities to view wildlife. Part of the Neawanna Creek watershed, this nature area consists of two ponds: one freshwater and the other tidal-influenced. It’s home to various species of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects, but the big draw is the birds.
In the spring, colorful, neo-tropical migrants — including Wilson’s warblers, orange-crowned warblers and warbling vireos — feed here on their travels along the Pacific Flyway. In the winter, you’ll find sparrows in addition to migrant Harlequin and wood ducks. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of ospreys, a favorite among birders here.
The trail is flat and less than a mile in length, making it an easy outing for families. To get to Mill Ponds, take Highway 101 to Avenue S and then to Alder Mill Road, where you can park at the end of the street.
For lighthouse views. The Tillamook Head Trail affords hikers glimpses of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, also known as “Terrible Tilly.” The lighthouse sits atop a rock formation about a mile off of Tillamook Head. Now decommissioned, Tilly’s light guided sailors for 77 years until it was officially decommissioned in 1957.
You’ll have to work for those stunning coastal views! You start by parking at the entrance to the Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Reserve on the south side of Seaside, where the trail begins. Rated as a moderately difficult hike, the entire trail to Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach is 6.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,126 feet, but of course, you’ll need to hike back, too. Or you could just go as far as the highest point, where you’ll find a lonely tree sitting on top of a rock face.
Much of the hike is in a deep coastal forest. On a hot summer day, you’ll appreciate the shade. When you arrive at the lighthouse viewpoint, stop a moment, close your eyes and listen. In the distance, you’ll likely hear barking from the sea lion colony that inhabits Tilly’s rock. OK, open your eyes again, because it’s a long way down!
For burning calories. Recommended for experienced hikers, the Saddle Mountain Trail has expansive views — you can see all the way to the Pacific on a clear day. From Seaside, drive about 30 minutes to Saddle Mountain State Park; once you turn off Highway 26, you’ll drive another 7 miles to reach the parking lot and trailhead.
Most of the hike is below tree line and consists of switchbacks that climb 1,615 feet to the top. Along the way, you’ll find a few viewpoints with picnic tables. The final quarter-mile is steep and exposed to the wind and sun. Take your time to appreciate the wildflowers that grow along this section of the trail.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the ocean, the Columbia River, the Coast Range, and, if you’re really lucky, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Baker and Mt. Hood. But know, this is the Oregon Coast, where you could find yourself completely socked in by clouds. Either way, you’ll have burned some serious calories.
A piece of history. Located adjacent to U.S. Highway 26, about 2.5 miles east of U.S. Highway 101, is the famous and previous national-record-breaking, Klootchy Creek Park. The moderate-level trails and secluded creek offer relaxing strolls and incredible scenery. A quick drive inland will see you at the root of this historic tree and park.
The 25-acre, Clatsop County-owned park once held the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the United States. Standing at 216 feet tall and 56 feet around. A portion of the tree, believed to have started its life at the year 1218, met an unfortunate demise in 2007. Fell by a severe windstorm in December of 2007, the tree serves as a constant reminder to the abundant amount of nutrients the forest offers. The 17-foot-diameter stump can still be seen at the trailhead of the park, and two of its fallen sections can be found throughout the park.
After visiting the grand stump, make sure to walk through the various trails. One of my personal favorite walks in the park is to keep right at the trailhead. This will allow you to walk right alongside the creek. Some parts of the trails will overlook the water, offering astonishing camera angles for the curious photographer. The local flora and fauna make for the perfect pair at Klootchy Creek.
Looking for a quick and scenic walk? Want to see a part of Oregon’s natural history? Klootchy Creek Park fits the bill and may just become a part of your regular visits to Seaside.