On a journey from one postcard-quality landmark to another, you’ll gape at skyscraper sea stacks topped with tall trees while descending and ascending a sun-soaked rainforest of stately spruces. Arch Rock and Natural Bridges make beautiful bookends for a hike above the beach.
Start at Arch Rock Viewpoint parking lot, and make a quick side trip on a paved loop to see the rock and arresting views of the next cove to the north. More coves, capes and islands await as you join the leafy-floored Oregon Coast Trail from the south end of the parking lot.Within 15 minutes you reach the highway’s Spruce Island Viewpoint and then climb above it. Rounding Deer Point, a whole new series of rocks and waves spreads out south. The ascent continues along an eastward stretch and you pass near the highway again before turning back seaward and climbing some more. Soon you are staring south where rock towers grace a sandy expanse. Descend to a right-hand turnoff toward Secret Beach for a rewarding detour featuring sea stacks and twin waterfalls at the slack-jawed mouth of Miner Creek.
More climbing ensues as you cross over the rushing creek. Make sure to take the wooden bridge southward instead of a wider path that heads east toward the highway. After some ascension you’re back at the highway within 30 minutes anyway, this time at the Thunder Rock Cove parking lot. By then you’ll have had the opportunity to take another detour on Thunder Rock Cove Loop, promising still more ascent-descent if you’re game.
Another 10 minutes and you reach the Natural Bridges Cove parking lot. A wooden platform just a short distance south of the turnoff affords a great view of Natural Bridges, an extended finger of coastline featuring not one but two yacht-sized tunnels. You’ve reached your destination landmark and turnaround point.
•THE HIKE: A meandering four miles or so (maps are vague) from Arch Rock to Natural Bridges on the Oregon Coast Trail.
•HIGHLIGHTS: Stupendous views of coves, islands and seastacks throughout. At Secret Beach, the view is enhanced by twin waterfalls.
•SWEAT LEVEL: With all the ups and downs, it’s a surprisingly strenuous hike that is well worth the effort. Still, the route frequently intersects with highway turnoffs, so you could reach some of the best viewpoints with much less effort if so desired.
•GETTING THERE: From Brookings, drive about 12 miles north on U.S. Highway 101 and turn left at the Arch Rock Viewpoint. Do the Arch Rock loop, then join the Coast Trail at the south end of the parking lot.