Rid­ing the Ore­gon Coast

This sum­mer, hitch up your trailer, load up your horse, and drive down High­way 101 along the Ore­gon coast for spec­tac­u­lar beach rid­ing.

Horse & Rider - - Contents - BY KENT & CHAR­LENE KRONE

Hitch up your trailer, load up your horse, and drive down beau­ti­ful High­way 101 for spec­tac­u­lar beach rid­ing.

DO YOU DREAM of rid­ing your horse along the ocean beach with waves thun­der­ing, hooves fly­ing, and a sink­ing sun cast­ing a jew­eled net of color? Hitch up your trailer, and head to the Ore­gon coast. Here you’ll find six ex­cel­lent horse camps, with beach trails, head­lands, and nearby hills. (If you’d rather leave your horse at home, you can go with an outfitter; turn to page 66 for a list.)

An added treat to your Ore­gon ad­ven­ture is driv­ing down U.S. High­way 101 as you make your way down the coast from camp to camp. Known as “the road through paradise,” this 364-mile jour­ney winds though one of Amer­ica’s great won­der­lands: pris­tine beaches; rugged head­lands; wind-sculpted coast­lines; his­toric light­houses; quaint, wind-bat­tered coastal towns—and the largest ex­panse of coastal sand dunes in North Amer­ica.

Up north, on the Columbia River, High­way 101 passes through As­to­ria, the old­est town this side of the Rocky Moun­tains; about mid-state, near Florence, don’t miss the Sea Lion Caves, one of the world’s great sea grot­tos.

We re­cently took this spec­tac­u­lar trip down the Ore­gon coast with our new equine trail part­ners. Char­lene’s horse, Jake, is a 5-year-old, dou­ble-reg­is­tered Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horse/ Spot­ted Sad­dle Horse. Kent’s 9-yearold mount, Cody, is reg­is­tered with the Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horse Breed­ers’ and Ex­hibitors As­so­ci­a­tion, the Spot­ted Sad­dle Horse Breed­ers’ and Ex­hibitors’ As­so­ci­a­tion, and the Na­tional Spot­ted Sad­dle Horse As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ne­halem Bay Horse Camp

Ne­halem Bay State Park ( ore­gon stateparks.org), lo­cated between Can­non Beach and Til­lam­ook, of­fers the only horse camp on the north Ore­gon coast. The park is si­t­u­ated at the be­gin­ning of a 4-mile sand spit between Ne­halem Bay and the Pa­cific Ocean.

Ne­halem Bay Horse Camp has 17 sites; each one has a two-horse cor­ral. Ameni­ties in­clude drink­ing water, picnic ta­bles, fire rings, and toi­lets. From here you can ride on the wide sandy beach, which runs 4 miles from the town of Ne­halem to the North Jetty south of camp. Ac­cess this beach by tak­ing the trail next to Site 15.

You can also ride on the Spit Trail; to reach it, take the trail next to Site 12. This 2-mile trail fol­lows the penin­sula between Ne­halem and the ocean on a mostly straight dirt road edged

with Scotch broom and wind-stunted shore pines.

Baker Beach Horse Camp

Head south on High­way 101, and you’ll come to Baker Beach Horse Camp ( fs .usda.gov/sius­law), lo­cated in Sius­law Na­tional For­est near Florence. From here, you can ride on stretches of the beach that ex­tend more than three miles. The camp­ground is open year­round; note that western snowy plover re­stric­tions are in place from March 15 to Septem­ber 15. This state- and fed­er­ally threat­ened bird nests along Ore­gon’s shores. You can also ride on the Baker Beach dunes trail, which of­fers in­cred­i­ble views of the largest coastal dune sys­tem in North Amer­ica.

Horse Creek Camp­ground

Baker Beach Horse Camp is the only coastal camp with­out cor­rals. If you don’t want to high­line your horses and pre­fer cor­rals, take the Herman Cape Road east off High­way 101 and drive 5 miles to Horse Creek Camp­ground ( fs.usda.gov/sius­law), lo­cated on the slopes of Cape Moun­tain.

It’s a lit­tle chal­leng­ing to get to Horse Creek Camp­ground with your loaded rig; the first 3 miles of Herman Cape Road are steep. At one point, we had to pull over and wait for our truck’s trans­mis­sion fluid to cool down be­fore con­tin­u­ing on.

Once you reach Horse Creek Camp­ground, you’ll find a de­light­ful place to spend a few days. The trees here are stately and beau­ti­ful. There are 11 camp­sites, each with two to four cor­rals. Bring your own horse water. Water is sup­posed to be in a trough lo­cated one-third-mile down a trail, but it was empty when we were there.

The high­light of this camp is a 50mile net­work of trails around Cape Moun­tain. The trails fol­low side hills, ridges, and steep moun­tain slopes. You can eas­ily cre­ate your own loops since trail junc­tions are clearly signed. From the top of Cape Moun­tain, there’s a mag­nif­i­cent view of the sap­phire-blue ocean with white frothy waves pound­ing the beach. On the way back, we ex­pe­ri­enced un­wel­come ex­cite­ment in the form of ground bees re­sult­ing in a fast ride back!

Wild Mare Horse Camp

Con­tin­u­ing south, be sure to stop at Wild Mare Horse Camp ( fs.usda.gov/ sius­law). Wild Mare is part of the Ore­gon Dunes Na­tional Re­cre­ation Area, known for its wind-sculpted sand dunes tow­er­ing up to 500 feet above sea level. This re­gion is in the south­ern tip of Sius­law Na­tional For­est, hug­ging the Pa­cific Ocean.

The lovely camp­ground—set among shore pine, alders, Dou­glas fir, and huck­le­berry—is named af­ter a wild horse that lived here from 1957 to 1984. There are 12 camp­sites; each has cor­rals for two to four horses.

The main ac­cess to the dunes and beach is the Wild Mare Trail, which leaves camp from Site #7. You’ll find miles of trails to ex­plore. You can ride north on the beach 15 miles one way to the mouth of the Um­pqua River or 7 miles south to Coos Bay. The dunes north of camp are des­ig­nated as an ATV play area, so plan on rid­ing in this area dur­ing the week when there’s less recre­ational traf­fic.

Bullard’s Beach State Park

Our next stop was at Bullard’s Beach State Park ( ore­gon­stateparks.org) near Ban­don. The camp­ground is pleas­antly si­t­u­ated among shore pines, which of­fer pro­tec­tion against the blus­tery ocean breezes. There are eight sites; each site has two to four cor­rals. Dur­ing our stay the park was in­stalling a high cen­ter pole in the cor­ral area. Now, when it rains, you

can stretch a tarp over the pole to cover the en­tire set of cor­rals at your camp­site.

There are three signed trails leav­ing the camp. The cen­ter trail is the di­rect trail to the beach, about a halfmile away. The Cut Creek Trail leads from the north end of camp; the trail to the light­house leaves from the south end. The Cut Creek Trail is a good first choice for break­ing horses into ocean rid­ing. There are a va­ri­ety of sandy trails loop­ing through dunes cov­ered in var­ied veg­e­ta­tion, from dune grasses to shore pines. Horses can hear and smell the ocean on the left, but can’t see it. Af­ter this ex­po­sure, you can ride over to the ocean and along the beach.

The ride to the light­house is only two miles, but this trail is also a good place to in­tro­duce your horse to the ocean. Af­ter leav­ing camp, ride on the east side of the road. Here horses can hear and smell the ocean but can’t see it. From the light­house, you may re­turn fol­low­ing the beach and make a loop. Be sure to stop at the light­house, which was built in 1896. Vol­un­teer staffers will give you an in­for­ma­tive, en­joy­able tour.

Cape Blanco State Park

Our last stop on the south­ern Ore­gon Coast was Cape Blanco State Park ( ore­gon­stateparks.org). This

camp­ground rings a cir­cu­lar meadow set among trees; each site has one or two cor­rals. For an in­ter­est­ing side trip, take a short drive to the Cape Blanco Light­house and the his­toric Hughes House. The tours of­fer in­ter­est­ing glimpses into by­gone days and what life was like for a light­house keeper in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

For two rides from camp, take the trail across from Site 7. Ride to the gravel road, turn right, and fol­low the horse-trail signs. Even­tu­ally you’ll come to a locked gate. Ride around the gate, and you’ll come to a trail junc­tion. Turn left to reach the For­est Loop Trail; turn right to ride to the beach. You can en­joy both trails in one ride; the loop trail isn’t long. The loop trail goes up and down small ridges and is mostly shel­tered from wind.

A fa­vorite ride we had in this area was to Black­lock Point and Flora Lake. We trail­ered north on High­way 101 about 3 miles to Air­port Road and turned left. We fol­lowed this road about 2.7 miles to the trail­head, which is next to an air­port hangar. The trail­head is gated with a po­ten­tially un­safe, nar­row way around. How­ever, we dis­cov­ered that if you go a short dis­tance to the left, you’ll find a nar­row trail through dense brush lead­ing back to the main trail.

Ride to a junc­tion for Black­lock Point to the left and Flo­ras Lake to the right. Black­lock Point pro­vides a fan­tas­tic view of cliffs and the ocean. When rid­ing to Flo­ras Lake, avoid the hik­ers-only Coastal Trail; stay on the Flo­ras Lake Trail. It’s a to­tal of 9.5 miles to get to both lo­ca­tions and back to the trail­head, pro­vid­ing an in­vig­o­rat­ing day of coastal rid­ing.

High­way 101 on the Ore­gon Coast is known as “the road through paradise.” It runs through 364 miles of wind-sculpted coast­lines, crash­ing waves, his­toric light­houses, and quaint sea­side towns.

LEFT: From Wild Mare Horse Camp you can ride di­rectly out to the beach on Wild Mare Trail. MID­DLE: Trail sign at Wild Mare Horse Camp. RIGHT: Kent and Char­lene Krone en­joy a camp­fire at Bullards Beach State Park.

TOP: The Sea Lion Caves on the Ore­gon Coast are some of the world’s largest sea caves. BOT­TOM: Jake and Cody en­joy­ing the cor­rals at Bullard’s Beach State Park. Each of the eight sites has two to four cor­rals. Shore pines pro­tect the sites from blus­tery ocean breezes.

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