Post Summary: What to Expect at Elk Flats Trail on The Oregon Coast
Did you know that Neahkahnie Mountain has a history of being a treasure hunting spot? We think the precious gems and jewelry have all been discovered by now, but there is one treasure that can still be found…
…and that’s the epic views on the Oregon Coast! The Neahkahnie Cliffs on the Pacific Ocean are some of the most incredible photography locations in Oregon. In this post, we’re sharing directions on how to see them for yourself, sustainability & safety tips, and other things to do around the area.
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Hiking Elk Flats Trail On The Oregon Coast
Note: We’ve also heard people search for Elk Flats using the names Forbidden Cliffs, Cape Falcon Trail, Neahkahnie Cliffs, or Treasure Cove. These are all the same area!
Why are we sharing all these details??
We are proud to share that all of the beaches on the Oregon coast are for public enjoyment, meaning anyone and everyone can visit these shores. As Pacific Northwest travel bloggers, we are proud to share our corner of the world with visitors and locals alike and want to give everyone a chance to visit places safely and sustainably.
Along with specific directions, we will be sharing tips on how to visit sustainably, safely, and how to be prepared for your hike. We believe that the more people that visit these places and the better equipped they are, the more advocates are created for conservation, protection, and safe access for all. Thank you for being a part of the solution!
Best Time To Visit Elk Flats Trail
The best time to visit Elk Flats trail is on a dry, sunny day. This area of the coast can be incredibly windy and muddy, making it quite dangerous if you aren’t prepared! For better pictures and fewer crowds, we suggest coming during sunrise and sunset. Most hikers will visit Elk Flats Trail during the weekends, in the middle of the day, so if you want to avoid crowds, we suggest coming on the weekdays, early or late in the day.
What To Bring To Elk Flats Trail
Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots. There is a notably high chance of encountering mud on Elk Flats Trail. Come prepared with waterproof boots so you can feel comfortable and dry! Our current favorite waterproof hiking boots are the Vasque St Elias GTX Boot. They are made of leather that mold and shape to your feet the more you wear them!
Windbreaker Jacket. The wind on the coast can be unforgiving at times, so protect yourself with a rain jacket or windbreaker. This one by REI is affordable and ultra-light, meaning you can cram it in your bag without it taking up too much space.
A Reliable Camera. There is a good chance you will be taking photos on Elk Flats Trail, so make sure to pack your favorite camera! You can read our travel photography gear list if you’re curious about what we bring. However, there’s no need for a fancy camera if you don’t have one – a smartphone or even this tiny Canon Powershot G7 X can do the trick just fine. Better yet, simply enjoy it with your eyes – they are the best cameras!
A Day Pack. Keep your hands free and carry your items in a lightweight day pack for this trail. We like the REI Flash Pack collection because they are ultralight and come in tons of fun colors. When not it use, they store down super small and take up very little space!
Safety Tips For Elk Flats Trail (LNT)
Because Elk Flats Trail is located on the side of a cliff, it’s extremely important to be aware of your surroundings. Here are some tips to keep in mind for a safe and sustainable trip:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Make sure to prepare for wet conditions, and pack the 10 hiking essentials.
- Travel on proper surfaces: After the rain, this trail is heavily muddy and slippery. If this is the case, steer clear of the edges, because they are unprotected and unforgiving!
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry out all trash, and use the bathrooms located in the parking lot.
- Leave Wildlife & Plants Undisturbed: Delicate plants scatter this Oregon Coast hiking trail, and they can be quickly damaged under the foot of a hiker.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts: There are no fires allowed at Elk Flats Trail.
- Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife, including the elk population in the area. Don’t leave food out, and leave your pets at home for this hike!
- Be considerate of others: Everyone visits for their own reasons. Respect other’s experiences too, by keeping the noise down, and yielding to trail passers.
Elk Flats Trail Details
- Trailhead Coordinates: 45.7483926,-123.9624048
- Trail Distance: 2.9 miles out and back
- Elevation Gain: 616 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
Elks Flats Trail is a section of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) and just south of Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park. It interconnects with popular trails near Short Sands Beach (namely, at Cape Falcon and the Devil’s Cauldron). However, this post shares the shortest, most direct route to the cliffside views.
To reach Elk Flats Trailhead, drive south from Cannon Beach on Highway 101 for 15 minutes (~11 miles). After passing through Oswald West State Park and the popular Short Sand Beach Trailhead, look out for the trailhead on the coastal side. It’s located in a small clearing, with a dirt parking lot. If you’ve arrived at Manzanita, Oregon – you’ve gone too far!
Beginning the trail, you have direction choices right from the start. Going left, you will visit the cliffside views. Going right, you will encounter Devil’s Cauldron, and be linked to farther north spots like Short Sands Beach and Cape Falcon. You’ll first walk through the coastal meadows filled with salmonberry, salal, red huckleberry, and sword fern.
There is no set way to explore Elk Flats Trail, so it’s free for all to decide the route you want to take! Keep scrolling, because we’re breaking down each viewpoint and what you might expect at each spot.
Viewpoints At Elk Flats Trail
Neahkahnie Cliffs (Treasure Cove)
This is the most iconic viewpoint at Elk Flats Trail. To your south, you can see towering cliffs that dive straight into the ocean below. Here, you can expect to find violent and churning water swirl and crash into the side of the cliffs. The dramatic display of waves is heightened during stormy weather or high tide, but beware because these conditions make it more dangerous for you, too!
More Cliffside Views of the Oregon Coast: Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor Near Brookings, Oregon
North of the Neahkahnie Cliffs / Treasure Cove is the Devil’s Cauldron. This area is a cliff-lined cove, where angry water swells and churns around for a dramatic and dangerously beautiful view. In the far distance, you can see Cape Falcon peeking out from the water. Closer, you can spot Cube Rock, which is a small solitary sea stack.
Safety Tip: Please don’t cross the fences that are in place. On our last trip, we saw a memorial for someone who died falling off the cliffs just weeks prior. No photo is worth risking your life, so please follow the rules. They are there to keep you alive!
Farther – Short Sands Beach, Smuggler’s Cove and Cape Falcon
For longer day hikes on the Oregon Coast, consider starting your adventure at Short Sands Beach trailhead and hiking up to Elk Flats Trail. On the way, you can check out Smuggler’s Cove, cross Necarney Creek, and enjoy the thick-forested hike to the cliffside views. Alternatively, you could do the route backwards and end UP at Short Sands Beach (Oswald West State Park) for a lunch break before you head back to the car.
More Hiking Trails On The Oregon Coast
Neahkahnie Mountain: Neahkahnie Mountain trail (north access) is the next closest hiking route to Elk Flats Trail. This 4-mile out and back trail is quite steep (1,250 feet in 2 miles) but the views at the top are absolutely worth every step. Check conditions before you go – this trail is notorious for downed trees blocking the route.
Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City: Driving a bit farther south will bring you to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City. Here, you can spend time wandering around the sandstone cliffs, dunes, and vast open shores.
Ecola State Park: Just north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park, known for its rainforest-like trails and incredible secluded beaches. Come here for the day and explore this amazing part of the Oregon Coast!
Where To Stay Nearby On The Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast Modern: This private vacation rental is built by a famous architect and owned by local artists. Snuggle up in this mid-century modern cabin (it fits 6 people in three rooms!) and have easy access to the ocean, Oregon coast hikes, and delicious local food in Manzanita.
The Ocean Lodge: Located in Cannon Beach, this romantic lodge on the Oregon Coast provides unobstructed views of Haystack Rock and the ocean. Spoil yourself with a relaxing room on the water!