Nature Conservancy Cascade Head Preserve - Exploring My Life

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Nature Conservancy Cascade Head Preserve

Oregon Nature Conservancy Cascade Head Preserve

Cascade Head is a spectacular coastal headland and is part of a 270-acre reserve owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. It is a haven for rare plants and wildlife that were once abundant along the Oregon Coast including the Oregon silver spot butterfly. The views from the top of Cascade Head are outstanding and include the Salmon River Estuary. The experience on being on top of the windy grassy headland overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean is not one to be missed!
Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area Oregon
Cascade Head Natural Area Oregon
Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area

Cascade Head is part national forest, part County Park, and part Nature Conservancy. It offers beach and river access as well as two rarities: coastal meadows, high above the sea, filled with flowers and grasses and butterflies.

To get there, you head for US 101 like you’re going to Lincoln City, but turn north from where Oregon Highway 18 comes in near Otis. A short distance up, you’ll see Three Rocks Road to the left; that leads to Knight Park and the trail-head #for hike #1 below. Keep going on 101 and, just before the crest of the hill, look for a road leading left into the woods; that leads to the trail-heads for hikes #2 and #3, but it will be closed between January 1 and July 15 each year.

Cascade Head Natural Area Trail
Neskowin Crest Natural Area Trail
Nature Conservancy Cascade Head Preserve

Hike #1: Knight Park to Cascade Head Hike

This one starts from the parking lot at Knight Park, by the mouth of the Salmon River. Follow a trail through the trees and along the road, then keep following signs until the trail goes into the woods and starts climbing a bit.

It gets brushy and crosses a few creeks, but it isn’t much work. After just over a mile, you’ll pop out into the open in the meadows, with a decent shot at spotting elk grazing or a bald eagle flying overhead. From here, the trail will keep climbing as much as another 1,000 feet or so.

Hike #2: Easier Access to Cascade Head

If you take the second road off 101 described above, you’ll first come to a trail head at a right-hand turn in the road. This is for the upper access to the meadows, and it’s a very straightforward affair: You just walk out through the woods on an old road for 1.3 miles, and there you are — at the top of the meadows. You can then go down towards Knight Park if you’d like or just hang out.

You could also, if you were feeling up for a slightly bigger challenge physically and logistically, do a cool shuttle: Leave one car here, take another to start at Knight Park, then walk up here on hike #1 and take the car down to hike #3.

Hike #3: Hart’s Cove Hike

 The hike with the best variety at Cascade Head starts at the end of the upper road. This one leads about three miles out to more meadows with views of Hart’s Cove, and it starts out in an unusual way: downhill.

The first mile or so loses about 500 feet of elevation, then it levels and goes in and out of a few creek drainage's before popping out into the meadows. Especially early in the hiking season (which starts July 15), this meadow can be really grassy and bushy, as no hikers have been in to trample down trails.
Oregon Cascade Head Natural Hike

If you head for a clump of trees off to the left, you’ll have a nice place to sit with a view of Hart’s Cove and a waterfall that drops into the ocean. Throughout the second half of the hike you’ll often hear sea lions barking, as well. And if you’d like, there’s a little adventure trail down to the ocean from beyond the trees.

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