We found two hikes that are perfect for families or adults who are looking to learn more about Oregon’s stunning natural world. One is a two-mile hike that has few inclines, the other has an accessible portion and a portion that’s only for those who enjoy a steep set of stairs, navigating hills made of smooth sea-stone scree, and mussel-covered obstacle courses surrounded by crashing waves (no, but seriously – it’s WORTH IT for the amazing sea life!).
First up is the beautiful, moss-covered and fairly easy Mike Miller Educational Trail.
Hike 1: Nature’s Classroom: The Mike Miller Educational Trail
The Trail begins at the Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site, just off Highway 101 and a quick 10-minute walk or 2-minute drive from Hallmark Resort Newport.
Pretty much immediately as you enter the trail, you’re greeted by a symphony of bird songs that sound almost as if they’re piped in. Beautiful and varied, the sound of birds will follow you throughout the hike. The trail spans approximately 1.2 miles and winds through a diverse coastal ecosystem, with one major difference from other hikes in the area: signposts that correspond to an educational PDF you can download to your phone to follow along and learn about trees, sand dunes, flora and even old railroads on the trail.
Signpost 3, for instance, highlights the lush vegetation on the shrub-lined path nearby. The PDF on our phones let us know that the trees surrounding us were mostly shore pines with the occasional Douglas fir. It was like we were on the hike with our uncle Phil, the knowledgeable arborist, but without the corny dad jokes and M&M-free trail mix. (Who does that?)
The note at Signpost 5 informed us about nurse logs. Nurse, or “nursery” logs are stumps or fallen logs that are able to nurture fallen seedlings into new trees. As you can see from the nurse log we discovered, as the seedlings sprout, their roots thicken and creep down the log to reach the soil in a decidedly “Blair Witch Project” kind of way.
A few other items on the loop of note (the trail conveniently loops right back to where you started!):
- An old railroad grade that extends the full length of the park from back in World War 1 when spruce logs were used for airplane construction. Later, the same railroad was used to carry passengers prior to construction of Highway 101.
- Beautiful Pacific rhododendrons with bright pink flowers that can grow up to 30 feet tall
- Stumps with “springboard notches”: large notches that once held the platforms loggers would stand on to fell the trees.
An absolutely beautiful and serene hike, the initial tree-lined path looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s about a mile long, categorized as “moderately challenging” and should take you about 24 minutes to finish.
Our best discovery? Well, it could be a felled tree covered in moss. Or, it could be a very tall alien who tried to crawl to his mothership and didn’t quite make it…covered in moss. What’re your thoughts?
Hike #2: The Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Tidepools
The lighthouse is just about a 10-minute drive from Hallmark Resort Newport, and the “hike” to get to the lighthouse from the parking lot is quite quick. It’s listed as an accessible hike, which it absolutely is. There’s a longer hike that begins at the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center Trailhead to and ends at the lighthouse—it’s about 3.5 miles and is classified as easy.
But if you’d like to make it fairly quick and you want to learn something about Pacific Northwest sea life, just drive to the parking lot by the lighthouse, take a walk around it and view its majesty (it really is quite a sight!), then take a walk along the coastline to the long set of stairs that will take you down to the tidepools.
Once you get halfway down the stairs, you’ll hit a stopping point where the park rangers will educate you about how to protect the shoreline’s delicate ecosystem while enjoying the tidepools. The three major rules are: touch gently, walk carefully (watch for living things attached to rocks!), and no collecting.
Once you get to the bottom of approximately 1,000 stairs (give or take), you hit a beach made completely of smooth sea stones that will test your balance. Do not be dismayed! Just accept the fact that you’re going to wobble your way to the beach like a mildly drunk penguin and know that you’re surrounded by others who look exactly as uncool as you do.
Once you hit the tidepools, you’ll find yourself face-to-tentacle with some truly beautiful sea life. Just in this one picture, you can spot a good amount of sharp purple sea urchins on the left, a wide-open giant green anemone and an Ochre sea star in the lower-right-hand corner who looks a little like he’s shrugging. We highly recommend bending down and touching the sea life – you’d be surprised at how hard the skin of a sea star is. (We were expecting it to be squishy, but it felt more like wet leather!)
There are plenty of park rangers to help you navigate the tidepools and are happy to answer any questions you may have. We spoke to one who was willing to show us the tooth-like plates that surround the purple urchin’s mouth, known as “Aristotle’s lantern.” All moments that were well-worth the wobble back to the stairs and the walk back up!
Both these hikes aren’t just about the stunning landscapes, they’re filled with opportunities to learn more about the stunning world that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest, and the ways in which we can help preserve it.
And the best part is, they’re just a quick walk or drive from your room at Hallmark.