Oregon’s coastal trails always reward, and Hart's Cove is no exception. This beautiful hike is a lesser-known trail on Cascade Head, in the Suislaw National Forest area. It’s a great day trip to the coast if you’re in the Willamette Valley region and want to catch some salt air.
The wonderful thing about the Hart’s Cove is that unlike its sister hike (Cascade Head) this trail takes adventures past the numerous creeks and miniature waterfalls spilling off the headland into the ocean. But the trails starts out with downhill switchbacks though a young coastal forest. Luckily railroad tie steps make the decent easier.
Undergrowth is sparse here because the tree cover is thick, but the filtered light overhead is lush with shades of coastal green. After about half a mile down the trail, you'll cross Cliff Creek Bridge, which marks the unofficial transition into an old growth forest. Some of these massive Sitka spruce giants you'll see here are over 250 years old!
The path then leads to a break in the tree line, giving you a first glimpse of Hart's Cove. But then the trail crooks back, snaking back through wind-beaten trees, before opening into a meadow. If you visit in early August you’ll see a spectacular show of wildflowers, including lupine, violets, pearly everlasting, common yarrow, and cow parsnip.
Stay on the trail to head back to the cliff edge for another view of the cove waters, and from this elevation of 900 feet you’ll see the small waterfall of Chitwood Creek cascade into the Pacific Ocean. Keep hiking down the steepening trail to the water’s edge for the full coastal experience. Down here you’ll see fishing boats on the horizon, hear the barking of sea lions, and can watch gulls trace arcs in the sky. The air is redolent with damp cedar, briny ocean spray and wildflower perfume.
Note that this area is closed seasonally from Jan. 1 through July 15 to protect two endangered species: the Oregon silver spot butterfly and hairy checkermallow flower.
Directions from McMinnville:
Take Highways 18 towards the Oregon Coast 47.0 miles past Otis, then bear right for Highway 101 North. In 0.2 miles, turn right on Highway 101 North and drive another 3.8 miles up onto forested Cascade Head. You’ll turn left on an unsigned gravel road through an open gate. Keep left at a fork after 2.5 miles, then look for a Nature Conservancy Trailhead on the left. It’s another 0.8 miles to the trailhead for Hart’s Cove.