I’ve been writing about the Samuel Boardman Coastal Trail over the last couple of months. I actually started last spring, took a long break and picked it back up in December.
Section by section, I hike the trail and write about the experience.
My last story ended with the promise of China Beach exploration. Promise broken. What’s life without a little mystery?
Instead, I drove north and scouted around for any sign of a trail leading up from the beach. I never did find one. I heard it may be possible to get around Deer Point via China Beach on a minus tide. However, on the other side of Deer Point is a short, enclosed beach with no trail access. It might also be possible (but not fun) to ascend the steep hillside at the north end of China Beach.
This is only my observation, but it appears that China Beach is a diversion and you must backtrack to continue north. If anyone knows otherwise, please let it be known.
On to the next segment
To locate the next trail segment, head north of Thomas Creek Bridge. At the north end of the second turnout on the left (approximately 8.9 miles north of Brookings) there’s a trailhead situated above the northernmost point of China Beach. If you get to Natural Bridges, you went too far.
This unnamed trail segment seemed less frequently used. Fir cones, branches and trees litter the trail.
From start to finish the hike takes about 30-45 minutes, one way. The trail is flat, single-wide, with no switchbacks — some roots but otherwise very jogger friendly. My friend Jessica Willard and I saw a lone jogger on the trail while we were eating lunch.
A few minutes into the hike the trail breaks left, down toward Deer Point. We didn’t venture down the side path. It looked like a well used deer trail; shaggier than most of the other trail offshoots. Another unspoiled adventure. Go check it out and see what you find.
If you continue along the main path, you will meet the highway once more. So far, this is the longest section of highway hiking yet. You don’t have to walk on pavement or gravel though. There is a distinct path removed from the guardrail.
It’s an open, grassy area with no obstructions. Which, by the way, makes for an indescribable view to the south of the north side of Deer Point. A trio of trees top the rocky point, surviving together in uninhabitable conditions. All around them their hill has eroded away.
The beach I mentioned before, the little one without trail access, lies below. It’s accessible if you follow Horse Prairie Creek downward. The beach is in a cove, and therefore wind-free. A rarity in Oregon.
Jessica and I sat up on top of the cliffs and dangled our legs while we ate our lunch. It’s an awesome viewpoint but there isn’t a turnout, so you only get to appreciate it if you’re hiking.
Aside from the view, it’s enjoyable to sit in the sun. Especially this late in winter in the chill of the forest. At 9:30 a.m. I could see my breath in the shade, even with the uncharacteristically nice weather we’ve been having.
Back in the treeline, Alder and Salmonberry bushes dominate the scenery, letting in lots of warm light. Ferns line the side of the trail. Not long after the alders recede the trail forks once more. You can go straight or left. If you go straight the trail ends a few minutes up the way. There’s a deck with a beautiful view of the first of the Natural Bridges.
The deck railing is carved and notched with the initials of hikers past. “We were here.” “We existed.” “We loved.”
The parking lot has a sign labeled “Natural Bridges.” You can’t miss it.
On our way back, Jessica and I explored that last fork. I am very glad we did.
The trail narrows and heads downward. Roots serve as makeshift stairs. Some joker spray painted blue letters on a fir tree. Bad form. Further down, past the graffiti, the trail breaks south and terminates. There are several islands to see along the way. Former bits of coastline, separated by time.
If you stay north and go toward what looks like a cliffside, you can walk the narrow land bridge visible from above. Far below, on either side of the trail, the sea is whitewater. It made me think of The Lost Boys — Peter’s crew, as well as the dirt-bike-riding-blood-suckers.
Be aware of the danger, breathtakingly beautiful as it may be. If you’re hiking with children, I recommend scouting out ahead first to assess the safety level.
The land-bridge path will again merge with the main trail north of the Natural Bridges parking lot.
I can’t wait to hike and take pictures at Natural Bridges. Anyway, give yourself about an hour to an hour and a half for this hike. Way more if you’re going to take the paths-less-traveled.
You know the drill. Water, snack, jacket.