WHY IT’S GREAT: The edges of Cape Falcon’s rocky cliff afford day-trippers eye-popping views of Neahkahnie Mountain. The 1,661-foot peak rises above the roiling sea at Short Sand Beach, where neoprene-clad surfers take on winter whitecaps. Sheltered by Oswald West State Park’s 2,500-acre natural umbrella of oldgrowth forest, the easy path travels well even in blustery conditions, making it ideal for storm-watchers who want to delight in the thunderous waves without getting soaked. On clear days, sharp eyes may even spy gray whales breaking the water’s surface as they lumber along their 6,000-mile migration path from the Arctic Ocean to the turquoise waters of Mexico.
ROUTE: From the parking lot, head west to access the trailhead. After winding for approximately half a mile beneath towering Douglas fir and western red cedars, the trail splits to allow access to Short Sand Beach. Keep to the right. Just before crossing a wooden footbridge at the two-mile mark, explorers can view tiny Blumenthal Falls as it dribbles into the Pacific. After another half mile, hikers must do battle with a tangle of shrubbery, but once past it they’ll be rewarded with stunning seaward vistas. Return the same way.
GETTING THERE: Take Hwy 26 west for 74 miles and head south on US 101. Travel 14 miles, and look for the Cape Falcon parking lot and trailhead on the right. No fees or permits required.