The Hobbit Trail takes you through a magical tunnel of eroded sand walls covered by a canopy of trees.
The Hobbit Trailhead
The Hobbit Trailhead, a few miles south of the Overleaf Lodge, is the starting point for three magical hiking adventures that live up to its delightful name. These are among the best hikes on the Oregon Coast, with varying distances and destinations to please most anyone. From the west side of the highway, the enchanting Hobbit Trail leads to Hobbit Beach while a lesser-known trail takes you to Heceta Head Lighthouse by way of spectacular views to the north. On the east side of the highway, Valley Trail and China Creek Loop Trail offer soul-nourishing solitude found in the temperate rain forest for which the Oregon Coast is famous. For a map of these trails, see the guide.
As you meander through forest on this half-mile path, you will encounter many delightful plants and trees, including towering evergreens. Look for mushrooms growing on fallen trees and watch out for banana slugs crossing the trail. Even with this short distance, you’ll encounter a great diversity of Pacific Northwest plants. Usnea, which is a genus of pale grayish-green hanging lichens, dangle from tree banches. Farther down the trail, the trees have mangled in response to decades of strong winds and ocean salt. This trail has many, many roots crossing the path and, at times, the footing is technical.
Right before you reach the beach, you will come to understand why it has been named Hobbit Trail. The path descends a few steps into the compressed sand and low trees arch above, giving the impression that you’re passing through a tunnel into another world. Be sure to observe the tops of the walls to see beach treasures — sand dollars, ocean-smoothed rocks, pieces of driftwood and crab shells adorn the passageway like an offering to Neptune.
Emerging from this magical tunnel onto Hobbit Beach, you will see to the south the towering walls of Heceta Head, where sea stars and anemones cling to rock walls and a few small tidepools delight the careful observer. When the tides are right, this beach is one of the best places to find sand dollars on the Central Oregon Coast.
The trail can feel a little crowded on a warm weekend, and the availability of parking spots at the trailhead will belie how many people will be on this trail. However, the beach is expansive and never feels full.
The view to the north from the trail to Heceta Head Lighthouse.
The bridge over China Creek.
Heceta Head Trail
From the trailhead on the west side of Highway 101, this 1½ mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail leads to Heceta Head Lighthouse. The sweeping views from the top are breathtaking and well worth seeing, even if you turn around before reaching the lighthouse.
While climbing the hill, remember to stop and look around occasionally for peeks of ocean and beautiful views of tree-filled ravines. Near the top, you will see a grove of Sitka Spruce trees on the south side of the trail for which branches have extended laterally into intriguing shapes. Fern grow in the crooks and moss drape artistically off of the branches. Several viewpoints provide stunning views of Hobbit Beach and views to the north. On a clear day, you can see the rocky outcrop of Cape Perpetua and even get a glimpse of Yachats.
Continuing on toward the lighthouse, a few unofficial paths beckon for exploration. With careful footing, you can see stunning drops into the ocean. The official trail continues through a ghost-like forest, where the bottom branches have died and fallen off but the canopy remains.
As you near Heceta Head Lighthouse, take a moment to get an eye-level view of the original Fresnel Lens from this unique vantage point. From here, looking south, you can capture a photo of the lighthouse and the coastline in a composition that you will likely want to print and frame.
Valley Trail and China Creek Loop
East of the parking area, the Valley Trail begins and continues along 1 ½ mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail that connects to the Carl Washburn State Park campground. A mile from the trailhead is the China Creek Loop which creates a 3-mile round-trip excursion. Few people take this peaceful, meditative trail of towering trees, ferns and moss-covered forest floor.
Well-maintained, this trail will guide you past several marshy areas, small ponds and seeps, and three charming bridges take you over small streams. Watch for yellow skunk cabbage, mushrooms, sorrel, many varieties of lichen and moss. In the spring, native rhododendrons are in bloom.