Where the ocean meets the Oregon shore, beachcombers wander, kayakers paddle and it’s easy to find a certain rhythm to the summer season.
That’s especially true where looming headlands rise to meet the sky and the trails less traveled invite you to explore a view that few would deny is one of the finest of the Oregon coastline.
Cascade Head has been a National Scenic and Research Area since 1974.
Located near the line between Tillamook and Lincoln Counties, there are multiple trails across Cascade Head that you can follow to explore the area.
Chris and I chose the shortest for our hike – just a mile in length – that spans US Forest Service land and reaches nearly 300 acres of the well-known Nature Conservancy Preserve where the view takes your breath away.
In the early 1960s, volunteers organized an effort to protect Cascade Headland from development; by 1966 they had raised funds to purchase the property, after which they turned it over to The Nature Conservancy.
Because of its ecological significance, Cascade Head Preserve and surrounding national forest and other lands have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.
Our hiking partner, Don Best, is an avid cameraman and a life-long local who loves his coastal county. But surprise, his toes have never touched this ground before.
That easy to understand once you see his photos, for Best’s best is captured two thousand feet up in the air
“I look for every opportunity to go flying and shoot photos! And what I see from the air is a totally different perspective.”
For example, the capes at Cascade Head stick out like a multi-pronged fork and the ocean is a wash of deep blue that is strong contrast with the dramatic landforms.
Don has made a name for himself capturing coastal Oregon from the air.
“I will fly around the headland in a complete 360 and shoot from every angle. I really don’t know which shot will turn out the best until I get home, turn on the computer and take a look.”
Cascade Head provides awesome views on a day when coastal clouds roll ashore and seem so close you could reach out and touch them. There’s an ethereal feel to the hiking experience.
But let a hike on Cascade Head be but the start of this coastal journey; especially if you are looking for an overnight camping site.
Head north on Coastal Highway 101 and take a quick jog into the coast range mountains at the small village of Hebo.
Nearly five miles later you can put down roots at a cozy campground built for summer vacations back in the 1930’s called Hebo Lake Campground.
Hebo Lake is small (2-acre) and shallow. A gravel trail around the entire lake provides good bank access and there are four ADA barrier-free fishing platforms located on the lake; two are accessible from the paved road.
Only non-motorized boats are permitted on the lake. Because the lake is so small, it is better suited to canoes, small rafts or float tubes.
US Forest Service Recreation Specialist, JW Cleveland, said that the site is popular on summer weekends, but during the weekdays, you may find yourself all alone.
“We have 12 campsites and numerous day use sites and it’s more set up for tent camping and smaller trailers – not really set up for RV camping because there are no hook ups. We also have three walk in sites for folks who want to get away from their vehicles a bit.”
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the campground, the trails - plus a rustic stone and timber shelter – nearly 80 years ago, according to US Forest Service Ranger, George Buckingham.
“It was a meadow and the CCC actually created the impoundment to form the lake and then built two shelters so folks would have a place to get out of the rain. It was developed as a recreational place for people and it was popular from the start.”
In 2010, the Forest Service closed the area for the season to drain and deepen the small lake for better fish habitat and they improved all of the campgrounds too.
“It just came out marvelously well and the fishing has improved over all too. It’s a wonderful peaceful setting and yet it’s easy to reach,” added Buckingham.
Each year, more than 10,000 visitors hike the Cascade Head Preserve and folks come to enjoy the unique views, the rare and protected wildflowers and much more, so stay on the main trail. Remember that there’s no collection of plants allowed and there are no dogs allowed either.
Plus, access is by foot traffic only; no bikes are allowed and motorized vehicles are prohibited. For groups of 10 or more, please contact the Nature Conservancy to arrange your visit.