Jessica Willard and Brad Willard look on while their grandfather, Clay Willard, takes a closer look at salmonberry bushes along trail.
The trails around Natural Bridges and Thunder Rock Cove have so many vistas that they should be avoided on a foggy day at all costs.
The Natural Bridges parking lot is clearly marked by two signs. People can’t miss the lot. The trail takes only five minutes.
I recommend taking the two side paths. The first left starts out easy enough. There’s a beautiful glimpse of the sea and a goat trail leading downward. It’s full of poison oak, and pretty steep, so be careful. A flat grassy patch protected on all sides by trees awaits at the bottom. Very peaceful.
Continue south to cross over the first of the Natural Bridges. A wide, flat outcropping is accessible on the seaward side of the land-bridge. The waves smash against the wall below and explode against the island ahead, blasting water straight into the air. If you stay long enough you can’t help but wonder which wave might be the one to sweep you off the rock.
Take your time with the view. The climb back to the main trail is straight uphill. It’s a rubber-leg maker.
The next left along the main trail leads you down a ridge-line. Keep your eyes over your right shoulder for a view of Thunder Rock Cove and a waterfall.
The trail disintegrates at the bottom, almost disappearing as it leads thinly to an island.
This weekend I was hiking with my brother, Quinn, and he decided to scale the crumbling bridge and climb up the side of the moss-covered, flaky rock above the rocks and sea below. So, that was fun.
The return hike back is cake compared to that first side trail. Soon after, you’ll arrive at the Thunder Rock Cove trail parking lot.
Thunder Rock Cove
More than any other trail, this one is very well marked — complete with time indications. The first sign reads: “View Pt. 10 min. Beach & Falls 40 min.” The beach referenced is Secret Beach.Next, you’ll come to a fork in the trail with a sign: “Loop Trail <—30 min. Beach—>10 min.” The loop leads to Thunder Rock Cove. Go there.
Before you reach the cove, the trail branches right. Continue straight. You can immediately hear why the cove is so named. Follow the rumbling earth.
You’ll be standing on top of a massive land-bridge. Beneath, the waves dig pockets in the rocks. You can feel the vibrations from the impact through all those layers of earth. This weekend I also hiked with Jessica Willard, her brother Brad, and their grandfather, Clay, the latter of whom once climbed through the archway underneath, accessible from the south end of Secret Beach. Sounds like fun.
The trail ends above Thunder Cove in what looks like a well-maintained state park. Flat, grassy, with low brush and mossy trees and great views all around, this is one of the best spots I’ve seen to stop for a picnic.
Backtrack to the loop and continue north. A signpost is labeled in Sharpie, “beach and waterfall.” Follow the path down. You can go uphill if you wish to return to the parking lot. Otherwise, you’ll see a series of waterfalls and a bridge just before you reach the beach.
Check for a low or minus tide in a tide book so you can see the whole thing. Secret Beach has to be one of the coolest beaches around. It’s Jessica’s favorite. I’ll write more about it next time.
Springtime is one of the best times to get out and hike the Oregon Coast. So much vibrant rebirth. Don’t miss out. Grab a buddy or a book and get out on your own adventure. And watch out for that poison oak. It’s no longer dormant.
That’s all I have for this time. With all the possible distractions and views, give yourself at least a couple of hours for this trail combo.
Don’t forget your water, snack and a jacket.
Story and photos by Gabe Chatman • Curry Coastal Pilot