Oswald West State Park: 8 Incredible Things To Do

Surfer, hiker, camper, or biker, come to Oswald West State Park for a good time!

Small, but mighty, Oswald West State Park is a Northern Oregon Coast gem! With its beautiful headlands and tons of hiking trails, it has the perfect adventures for all ages.

Berty and I have visited this park countless times, most recently in the spring! Without further ado, here’s our complete guide to Oswald West State Park!

Oswald West State Park at a Glance

Oswald West State Park is a must-see stop on the northern Oregon coast. Especially if you’re planning and Oregon Coast road trip!

Sandwiched between Oregon coast towns like Cannon Beach and Manzanita, this unassuming park doesn’t look like much from Highway 101. However, it has tons of outdoor activities for visitors and locals alike.

However, hidden less-than a mile from the parking lot are hidden overlooks, secret beaches, surfing, and more!

The best time to visit Oswald West State Park is June through September. You can expect rain any time of year! Make sure to refer to our Oregon Coast packing list so you are prepared for your trip!

Emily Mandagie picnicking at Oswald West State Park

History of Oswald West State Park

Stretching across four miles of Oregon’s northern coast, Oswald West State Park is comprised of dense, temperate rainforests, scenic vistas, cliffs, and coastal hiking trails.

Oswald West State Park was created after Samuel H. Boardman became Oregon’s first director of state parks in 1929.

For the following 10 years, Boardman acquired 2,474 acres of land between Tillamook and Clatsop counties. This includes the south slope of Neahkahnie Mountain to the north slope of Arch Cape, and created Short Sand Beach State Park.

The name was changed to Oswald West State Park in 1956 to honor a local governor who helped preserve the land for public access.

For centuries, this area has been a hub for the Tillamook people, settlers, outdoor adventurers, tourists, archeologists. It is still one of the most popular Oregon coast attractions!

Things To Do At Oswald West State Park

Things To Do At Oswald West State Park

1. Visit The Tide Pools

Some of the best tide pooling in Oregon is located on the edges of the cove on Short Sand Beach!

To reach the tide pools of Short Sand Beach from the main parking lot of Oswald West State Park, walk under Highway 101 and follow Short Sand Creek to the cobbled beach.

From there, you can cross the creek on a railroad bridge to the picnic area overlooking the beach or continue down to the shore.

Tidepooling on the Oregon coast is one of the best activities for families–especially kids!

Berty having a picnic at Oswald West State Park

2. Enjoy a beachside picnic

Whether you’re with friends, family by yourself, or your beau, oceanside picnics are one of the best–and most accessible–outdoor activities for enjoying the scenery and connecting with others.

Short Sands Beach is the perfect place for a picnic. It’s just a quick, one-mile hike to the secluded cove! Here, there are picnic tables, benches, and bathrooms that are easily accessible!

At Short Sands Beach, you can expect driftwood, lots of rocks, tide pools, and even good waves for surfing!

What could be better than oceanside views, friends, wine, and a delicious charcuterie board?

3. Surf at Short Sand Beach

The PNW has a reputation for its rugged coastline and stormy seas. But did you know that there are actually tons of surfing hot spots along Washington and Oregon’s shores?

Nicknamed “Shorty’s” by locals, Short Sand Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Oregon for surfing in the summer!

Within Oswald West State Park, the cove made from sandstone cliffs and lush forests at Short Sand Beach makes perfect conditions for finding an awesome beginner wave.

Need to rent a board? Stop by Cleanline Surf Shop for rentals, wetsuits, and the surf forecast.

Elk Flats Trail near Oswald West State Park

4. Hike Elk Flats Trail

One of the best Oswald West State Park hikes is the Elk Flats Trail, which leads you to dramatic cliffs (aka the “the forbidden cliffs”) with stunning Pacific Ocean views!

Elk Flats Trail is found to the south of Short Sands Beach, is a portion of the greater Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), and connects to other popular trails in the area, including Cape Falcon Trail and Devil’s Cauldron Trail.

Depending on what season you trek the Elk Flats Trail, you’ll want to bring good hiking boots and a windbreaker/rain jacket. It can get pretty windy, muddy, and rainy there!

The Elk Flats Trail is 2.9 miles, out and back, with 616 feet of elevation gain.

NOTE: The bridge that connects Cape Falcon Trail to Short Sand Beach is closed due to weather damage (as of March 2023). Plan to reach it via an alternate route!

5. Head To Cape Falcon

After hiking Elk Flats Trail, make a stop at Cape Falcon!

You can reach this area on the 5.2-mile, out-and-back Cape Falcon Trail. This trail leads you to scenic vistas of Smugglers Cove, Neahkahnie Mountain, and Short Sands Beach.

While hiking the Cape Falcon Trail, you’ll also pass Blumenthal Falls, which drops 60 feet then trickles down toward the ocean.

6. See Devil’s Cauldron

If you’re looking for an easy hike while in Oswald West State Park, check out the Devil’s Cauldron Trail–a 0.5-mile, out-and-back trek through tall grasses and berry bushes to a beautiful cliffside overlook of the Pacific Ocean.

Here, you can expect majestic views of crashing waves, and you’re guaranteed to see tons of wildlife and birds.

Just be careful as you hike and watch your young kiddos, because the trail follows alongside the cliffs and can be muddy at times!

Mount Storm King shot of trees up the cliff side

7. Venture up Neahkahnie Mountain

Up for a challenge? Hike up Neahkahnie Mountain for a full day hike with epic ocean views!

The ancient Sitka spruce-covered Neakahnie Mountain rises 1,700 feet above sea level and is the highest headland in the area.

You can start this hike from two trailheads: Neahkahnie Mountain via North Neah-Kah Mountain Trail (challenging 4 miles with 1,243 feet elevation gain) or Neahkahnie Mountain via South Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail (challenging 2.5 miles with 885 feet elevation gain).

8. Walk a section of the Oregon Coast Trail

The Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) stretches across Oregon’s 362-mile coastline and leads hikers through tons of Oregon coast beaches, forests, headlands, and 28 coastal towns.

While in the area, hike a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail for a unique backpacking experience along the beautiful and diverse Pacific Northwest landscape.

You can either hike the Elk Flats Trail, Columbia River to Oswald West section, or Oswald West to Cape Lookout section–each pass through the state park and other Oregon coast towns!

The Oregon Coast Trail is an experience like no other, and surely not one to miss while in Northern Oregon!

Oswald West State Park Hikes

Looking for fun Oregon coast hikes in Oswald West State Park? Here is a list of the most popular trails, from shortest to longest!

Best Camping Near Oswald West State Park

While there is no camping at Oswald West State Park, here are some nearby campgrounds to consider staying at!

Just a 14 minute drive north of the state park, Nehalem Bay State Park has over 300 tent, RV, yurt, primitive horse campsites, and ADA accessible accommodations for all travelers (rates start at $35).

Wrights for Camping is a family-owned campground near Cannon Beach that offers no-fuss camping that has fun outdoor adventures of its own, including hiking, visiting lighthouses, tidepooling, and even surfing (rates start at $50)!

For those looking for free camping, check out the Tillamook Head Hikers Camp (24 minutes from the state park), which has primitive accommodations, a pit toilet, wooden bunks, and a fire pit. The hike into this campsite is 4.5 miles and starts from either the Indian Beach parking turnaround or Tillamook Head Trailhead.

Views of the Oregon Coast - TheMandagies.com

More Things To Do Near Oswald West State Park

Cannon Beach: This is a must-see stop on your next Oregon coast road trip! In Cannon Beach, you can not only get stunning views of the iconic Haystack Rock, but you can also have a beach bonfire with delicious s’mores, enjoy an evening out at Pelican Brewing, or walk the main strip through cute shops, cafés, and restaurants.

Manzanita: There are so many things to do in Manzanita, Oregon! This is a fun little town where you can wander through cute downtown shops and restaurants, go wine tasting at the Winery at Manzanita, and go horseback riding on the beach.

Tillamook: In Tillamook, you can tour the well-known Tillamook Creamery, get a bite to eat and a drink at Pelican Brewing, and explore Cape Lookout State Park!

Seaside: Seaside is a cute town on the water that offers visitors with a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, including walking along the 1.5-mile-long, oceanside promenade, and discovering the wonders of the ocean at the Seaside Aquarium.

Map of Oswald West State Park

Image Courtesy of Oregon State Parks!

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