Atop the grassy summit of the Cascade Head is a great place to sit and take in the many sights of the Oregon Coast: the meandering Salmon River, the smooth sandy beaches, the rugged basalt headlands, and of course the ocean. It is accessible year-round via an easy-to-moderate 2 mile hike from the Lower Cascade Head Trailhead at Knight Park. The route from the Upper Cascade Head Trailhead is shorter, but it is only open from July 16th to December 31st.
The trail is only open to hikers – dogs and bikes are not allowed
Whether approaching from the upper or lower trailhead, the first section of the hike travels through a beautiful temperate rainforest that’s home to moss-covered Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, Douglas fir and Red alder with swordfern undergrowth.
As soon as the trees end, the panoramic views of the ocean begin. This steep grassy hillside is protected by the Nature Conservancy because its a unique ecosystem home to several very rare species of flora and fauna:
The Cascade Head catchfly is a very rare variety of wildflower – 99% of the world’s population is found here (source).
The Oregon silverspot butterfly is only found in 4 other locations around the world. This species depends fully on early blue violets, which are grow in coastal salt-spray meadows like that of the Cascade Head area. The butterfly also depends on the nearby forest for refuge when the weather gets windy (source).
Other notable plants and animals in the area are: deer, elk, hairy checkermallows.
The Cascade Head overlook is accessible via two trailheads, although it is important to note that the upper portion of the trail (above the observation points) is closed from January 1st to July 15th. (Map of closure area can be found at fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd533735.pdf)
Although slightly more strenuous than accessing Cascade Head from the top at the upper trailhead, the lower section of the Nature Conservancy Trail winds though some interesting forested sections and open year round.
The Upper Cascade Head Trailhead provides the easiest access to the coastal viewpoints on Cascade Head, but is closed from January 1 to July 15. During these dates Cascade Head must be reached from the Lower Cascade Head Trailhead.
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