The Mill Ponds Trail (also known as Chapman Ponds) provides hikers with excellent opportunities to view wildlife. Part of the Neawanna Creek watershed, this nature area consists of two ponds: one freshwater and the other tidal-influenced. It’s home to various species of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects, but the big draw is the birds.
In the spring, colorful, neo-tropical migrants — including Wilson’s warblers, orange-crowned warblers and warbling vireos — feed here on their travels along the Pacific Flyway. In the winter, you’ll find sparrows in addition to migrant Harlequin and wood ducks. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of ospreys, a favorite among birders here.
The trail is flat and less than a mile in length, making it an easy outing for families. To get to Mill Ponds, take Highway 101 to Avenue S and then to Alder Mill Road, where you can park at the end of the street.
Tillamook Head Trail
The Tillamook Head Trail affords hikers glimpses of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, also known as “Terrible Tilly.” The lighthouse sits atop a rock formation about a mile off of Tillamook Head. Now decommissioned, Tilly’s light guided sailors for 77 years until it was officially decommissioned in 1957.
You’ll have to work for those stunning coastal views! You start by parking at the entrance to the Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Reserve on the south side of Seaside, where the trail begins. Rated as a moderately difficult hike, the entire trail to Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach is 6.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,126 feet, but of course, you’ll need to hike back, too. Or you could just go as far as the highest point, where you’ll find a lonely tree sitting on top of a rock face.
Much of the hike is in a deep coastal forest. On a hot summer day, you’ll appreciate the shade. When you arrive at the lighthouse viewpoint, stop a moment, close your eyes and listen. In the distance, you’ll likely hear barking from the sea lion colony that inhabits Tilly’s rock. OK, open your eyes again, because it’s a long way down!
Saddle Mountain Trail
Recommended for experienced hikers, the Saddle Mountain Trail has expansive views — you can see all the way to the Pacific on a clear day. From Seaside, drive about 30 minutes to Saddle Mountain State Park; once you turn off Highway 26, you’ll drive another 7 miles to reach the parking lot and trailhead.
Most of the hike is below tree line and consists of switchbacks that climb 1,615 feet to the top. Along the way, you’ll find a few viewpoints with picnic tables. The final quarter-mile is steep and exposed to the wind and sun. Take your time to appreciate the wildflowers that grow along this section of the trail.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the ocean, the Columbia River, the Coast Range, and, if you’re really lucky, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Baker and Mt. Hood. But know, this is the Oregon Coast, where you could find yourself completely socked in by clouds. Either way, you’ll have burned some serious calories.
Soapstone Lake Trail
Located off Highway 53, the two mile trail , for non - motorized use only, follows an old road to the former site of the Lindgren Cabin, now located at Cullaby Lake County Park. The trail continues to climb through the forest to Soapstone Lake, where a trail leads visitors around the lake. The lake offers a chance to see a variety of wildlife including beaver and eagles. There are ample places to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic while taking in views of the lake.
Travel Highway 26 to the Highway 53 junction at Milepost 9. Travel Highway 53 to Milepost 4.5. Follow signs to Soapstone Lake.