You can easily customize a hike according to the time you have and your fitness level. For a day-long adventure and that deep-dive-into-nature experience, try the 9-mile (14.5 km) Cummins Creek Loop Trail from the visitor center, which meanders through old-growth coastal forest. Bring water and check to see if a pass or fee is required for parking, which varies. Click here for a downloadable map.
Discovery Loop and Cooks Ridge
Discovery Loop is about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long, and has periodic interpretive signs that narrate the forest, its growth and historic aspects of the area. Benches are situated at key spots for catching your breath and seeing the view. To extend this hike, take the eastern spur off the loop and venture up Cooks Ridge. The trailhead for Discovery Loop and Cooks Ridge starts at the east end of the visitor center parking lot.
Access this trailhead from the well-marked unpaved road east of Highway 101. The first mile (1.6 km) of trail is well maintained with easy footing and is, at first, wide enough for several people to walk together comfortably. This trail takes you on an amazing walk through tall, towering trees. For a pleasant and not-too-challenging hike, walk the trail for a mile before turning around at the fork in the trail and heading back. The forest is deep, green and renewing here. Note that bicycles are allowed on this trail.
Oregon Coast Trail
This trail skirts the head of Cook’s Chasm and features expansive views of the ocean and Neptune State Park. Even a short walk along this trail is rewarding. The trail follows along the east side of Highway 101 1.5 miles (2.5 km) to the Cummins Creek Trail Road. Note, this trail has many tree roots, so bring your hiking poles if you are unsure of your footing. From the visitor center parking lot, take the trail between the visitor’s center and the restrooms. Take the west fork toward the coast and continue south, instead of going through the tunnel to the ocean. You will cross the road before you are on the Oregon Coast Trail.
I love the many tiny stream-crossings on this 3-mile (5 km) trail. Most of the streams pass under the trail, but you will need to step over a few. Along the trail, you will pass about a dozen of these enchanting, little streams. The path has many tree roots to navigate and some stairs, with steep gains in elevation. The streams that run through this dense, sublime forest add to the sense of renewal and growth that I found on this walk. The trailhead can be accessed via the Oregon Coast Trail, a mile (1.6 km) from the visitor center or a half mile (1 km) from Cummins Creek Trail Road; there is no parking lot to access the trail. At the top, the trail connects to Cooks Ridge, where you can descend to the visitor center for a 6-mile (10 km) loop.