Next to the breaking waves of the Pacific, south of the mouth of the Columbia, some of the best trail and beach running in America can be found. Passing by shipwrecks and sea stacks, eagles and overlooks, the coastal running routes available around Clatsop County are world- class and sought after. Our beaches have become the playground of the west, inspiring those who flock in droves to our sandy shores a chance to find true running paradise on the north Oregon Coast.
Mary Fredricks of Portland is like many runners along the Oregon coast, often found striding along the surf in absolute bliss. For her and many other runners around the region, a day along the coast is full of solitude, beauty and joy. Having only started running four years ago, she now considers herself to be addicted to running along the coast, heading out that way nearly every weekend after running it for the first time a year ago.
“Running along the Oregon Coast changed me as a runner,” Fredricks explains. “I used to only run along the roads, but after being introduced to running along the coast, I found myself counting down the days to my next trip west. Once you see a sunset from a remote stretch of beach and then run back to your car at twilight, I bet anyone would feel the same”
Fredricks’s discovery of running on the coast has truly created a change in her life. She tells us that once she could handle running for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, running helped her lose weight, feel better about herself and even gave her a chance to learn more about the beauty of Oregon. In 2018, Fredricks plans to participate in her first long trail race, the Oregon Coast 30k. The race is one of dozens of beautiful running events along the coast and one of many routes runners need to check out. With the help of Fredricks and some of the trail running community of the Pacific Northwest, we have compiled a few destinations and races that will have you eager to get out and run the coast.
Fort Stevens State Park
While there are many trails in Fort Stevens on which to run, one of the classic beach running routes is the five mile long double dune trail. Forming a loop by sticking to the Delaura Dune Trail and the Kestrel Dune Trail, this route will have you running toward the mouth of the Columbia River, past a shipwreck and then back through fun sand dunes. Runners looking for more during low tide can run along the beach all the way to the South Jetty, taking in the majesty of the mouth of the Columbia before heading back.
Ecola State Park
In Ecola State Park, your opportunities to run along the beach are minimal, but do not worry. Instead of running along the sandy shores, the trails here will have you on the lush bluffs, looking down on the sea stacks and crashing waves. Retracing the steps of Lewis and Clark, the Clatsop Loop Trail is 2.6 miles of awesomeness. Gaining 710 feet in elevation, you’ll get both your dose of hills in and some incredible eye-candy as you gaze out from the numerous lookouts and vantage points. Those looking for longer miles can double up the loop or run from nearby Cannon Beach to the Indian Beach Trailhead, where the loop starts.
Oswald West State Park
Just south of the Clatsop County border, Oswald West State Park is an overlooked running destination along the Oregon Coast. Overshadowed by the parks to the north and south, this park is perfect for trail runners looking for a myriad of options, thanks to five trails over two miles in length. The best trail for most is the Arch Cape to Cape Falcon Trail, which is 6.5 miles long one way. On this long trail — accessed from the 2.3 mile Cape Falcon Trail — you’ll weave along the coastline, seeing stunning views and enjoying the solitude of the coast.
The Oregon Coast Trail Series
For those looking to run a race instead of traipsing along the beach alone, this trail series is the perfect introduction to trail running along the Oregon Coast. What makes this a great introduction is that all of the races are between three and seven miles long and take place during the spring, summer and fall months. Each season has a trail series, which consist of five races. Like most trail races, the community involved is very friendly and supportive, most likely leading you to find some running friends for incredible adventures all year.
The Oregon Coast 30 and 50K
Finally, the serious trail runners of the region will need to sign up for the ultimate race along the Oregon Coast. Located down at Yachats and Cape Perpetua, the Oregon Coast 30K and 50K races are considered to be some of the best trail running experiences on the west coast. Weaving through forests, up to high bluffs and lookouts over the Pacific Ocean, then back to the beach, these races will push you with their challenging courses and reward you with breathtaking views and stunning scenes around every corner. Put on by Rainshadow Running, who organizes some of the best trail races in the country, the race is extremely professional, friendly and inspiring. If you are ready to run an Ultra on the coast, this is for you.