Not all Oregon hikes are family-friendly, but one loop trail that does get the "fun-for-all" stamp of approval is the Mike Miller Park Educational Trail near Yaquina Bay on the Oregon Coast.
Located just south of Newport, the trail is part of Mike Miller Park, a donated 40-acre lot of land that preserves and showcases the various ecosystems in the area. It’s a terrific place to visit during a seaside visit if you want to learn more about the Oregon Coast's natural environment.
The one-mile trail traces a circle around the Mark Miller Park, with numbered posts along the trail pointing out interesting aspects of the landscape. Grab an interpretive trail guide at the start of the hike, and allocate at least an hour to explore the forest.
The loop starts by plunging into dense coastal forest foliage via a well-maintained path that’s actually a historic railroad bed. Look for an abundance of lovely and useful native plants here, including evergreen huckleberry, salal, and wax-myrtle, plus beautiful rhododendron. You’ll hit a junction, stay to the left, cross a footbridge, and keep on as a gentle elevation change begins. This turn will take you deeper into an old growth forest.
Look up and take in the impressive height of Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock. The shade thickens here as the path gets veined by roots, and a mixture of fallen trees (from coastal storms) mix with new growth. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including newts, bald eagles, and many species of song birds. Look for signpost #7 close by, which leads off to a side trail towards a soil pit showing the different layers of sediment.
Shortly after you’ll hit a trail junction that connects to the Wilder Trail, but stick to the right to plunge back into the forest. You’ll see younger hemlocks and spruce growing here, mixing with thickets of salal. The woods will open up, and you’ll cross another footbridge before climbing a set of steps. The trail levels at the top, and then dips back down into a blowdown area littered with wind-knocked tree trucks.
Pass the Emery Trail junction to descend into an open area rich with abundant understory plants. There’s an old snag to the left where an osprey nest sits -- slightly hidden for the sharp-eyed to spot. Cross one more footbridge and you’ll find yourself back in a dense tunnel of hemlocks that leads to a boardwalk along a pond. There’s a small landing and footbridge by the water, along with some benches. The trailhead is just to the left from here, past a short slope of rhododendrons and evergreen huckleberry.
To add length to the hike take the side jaunts down the Wilder Trail (which connects to Hatfield Marine Science Center and Yaquina Bay) or the Emery Trail (a side loop trail around a newly acquired 5.8 acres of land).
Note that there is limited vehicle parking on the roadside, but there is a bike rack tucked just out of sight by the trailhead. On fair-weather days, consider biking out to the trail to amplify your nature experience.