Let’s face it, you don’t go to Lincoln City, Oregon for the culture, although there is a good old-fashioned movie theater on main street. You might go for the shopping if you love a good outlet mall. Most likely, you go for the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The town itself is nothing to write home about – small kitschy tourist shops, a smattering of antique stores, a Safeway, an IGA and the fish store Barnacle Bills. (Definitely stop there for smoked salmon). We go there because our family has one of those funky little beach houses you see dotted along the shore in Oregon – an old shingled house that looks like it got caught in a 1950’s time warp. We also go for the hiking. Here are three of my favorite hikes.
Cascade Head (Upper Trail)
I’ve never been to Scotland, but this hike makes me want to wear a tartan and start speaking in Scottish brogue because when you hit the clearing, you see this amazing view of rolling hills with cliffs leading to dramatic, misty views of the sea. The trail starts out with an easy hike through a forest – the trail is wide enough that we were able to wield it with a jogging stroller. There are a few mossy bridges and just as you start to think this hike is going to be boring, you stumble upon this large clearing of a big field dotted with wildflowers and the most amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. I shouldn’t have to say it, because this is Oregon after all, but this trail is spectacularly muddy so while an easy hike, you want to have waterproof shoes. Entrance to the trail head is roughly 7 miles north of Lincoln City.
Drift Creek Falls
If you’re a sucker for a good suspension bridge with views of a serious waterfall, this hike is for you. Drift Creek Falls is inland, so you won’t experience ocean views, but you will have a good hearty hike with clean, open trails in a forest with remnant of its old-growth past. It’s a bit of a drive from Lincoln City (a good 40 minutes, with much of it on an old winding logging road). Be sure and stop on the way to see the Drift Creek Covered Bridge – it’s one of the last 50 covered bridges that remain in Oregon. But beware, the bridge is a good 25 minutes away from the trail head. This is one of those trails where you start at the top and go down. The good news is that the incline is not that steep, so you won’t have that shock to the system when you attempt to go back up. You wander through this mystical forest until you hit Drift Creek, cross that and shortly thereafter you come upon the suspension bridge and Drift Creek Falls. As suspension bridges go, this is a fairly sturdy one built just 20 years ago so no major swaying. If you do suffer from vertigo, you may want to take the bridge on faith.
If you only have time for one hike near Lincoln City, make it God’s Thumb. This is a fairly easy hike – God’s Thumb. For the longest time, this hike was only known to locals because both access points to the trail are relatively unmarked and there’s no trail parking. We typically park at the Road’s End State Recreation Park (which is a parking lot which looks out over the ocean) and then hoof it along the road until we get to the unmarked trail. I’m not good at directions, but the Statesman Journal does a good job of unraveling how to find this hidden gem. The thing I love about this hike is you meander through meadow and forest, followed by meadow and forest with no hint whatsoever of the stunning view that awaits you. About a mile and a half in, you’ll get your first glimpse of God’s Thumb – which is just that – a dramatic thumbs-up shaped cliff-top, with dramatic views of the Pacific ocean and Cascade head. At this point, you’ll take a collective “Wow” and wonder how the heck you’re going to get to the top of the thumb. There’s a very steep trail for that, in a meadow, with well-worn muddy toe-holds. That final hike up to the top of Thumb’s point is not for the faint of heart or vertigo-sufferer but so well worth it to go to the top. The wind whips at your face and you really feel like you’re on top of the world.
There you have it, my three favorite hikes in Lincoln City. Any one of these hikes warrants a visit to my favorite clam-chowder joint anywhere in the world, Mo’s.