The Comical Oregon Coast Road-trip from Utah
Walking in the forests here are like taking a stroll in in somewhere like Ferngully or Lord of the Rings elven forests. Everyone you meet on the trail seems to feel this other-worldly connection not just to their surroundings but a deep reverence and respect because of the beauty of the place. The healing qualities that come from being in nature is something I have always appreciated, but the Oregon Coast....welll....the feeling here is something entirely different.
I visited the Oregon Coast in 2019, but have recently updated this post to include a few more places to visit as my friend Bree has been a traveling Nurse there for the last few years and suggested a few more things to include.
We were driving from Salt Lake City Utah to Oregon and then up and down the coast of Oregon to visit her family that lives there so I included a few extra stops along the way there.
The Salt Flats in Utah
There are several places among the Salt Flats that you can stop and get stellar photos and selfies. Because we are short were short on time, we stopped at a rest stop with a short 5 foot walk onto the Salt Flats with gentle rolling hills in the Distance.
Try to wear monocolor clothing without any wording on it or symbols. In photos it just looks distracting. Don't wear sunglasses unless they are reflective and you just want the attention to be on your face. Avoid watches as this can also be distracting for the viewer. I personally love to wear flowing dresses here, because it just looks cool when it blows in the wind. Otherwise pair your clothing with something that will contrast to the background. For the Salt Flats, Sunrise or Sunset is the absolute best time to go, the white ground gets very reflective of the sun and can blow out your photo.
After this Quick stop, we were on our way to Tokatee Falls. If you are driving from Salt Lake City on your way to Wendover, this is also a great little stop that is only 1.5 hours away.
We arrived at Tokatee Falls about 30 minutes before Sunset was complete. We had to do the hike rather quickly, and there are lots of stairs folks. I also had swollen legs from sitting for 16 hours in the car. It made it very difficult to do this trail quickly, this was the first instance I kicked myself for being so out of shape of many on this trip.
To avoid those swollen legs when driving or flying for long distances, compression stockings are a LIFE SAVER! No literally, they are life saving. When I would have patients come into my office with calf pain, one of the first things I ask is if they have done any traveling that required them to sit for long periods of time. The ones who ended up having blood clots in their legs, were often the ones that said yes. I bet you are thinking, 'Oh, that only happens with old people'.....NOPE.....think again. Some people are more prone to it than others, especially younger people who overload themselves on energy drinks and caffeine to stay awake. No one is immune to blood clots. A good rule of thumb is to get out of the car every hour or two and walk around for at least 15 minutes.
Getting to Tokatee Falls was awe-inspiring and took my breath away. I have never seen a waterfall like this in my entire life. The hike was fairly easy getting there (minus all the stairs). There is a hike that goes by the river, that I spotted plenty of swimming holes. Tokatee Falls itself was a contrast of white and dark, smooth and jagged visual delights. When there are such contrasting elements in one photo, I get very inspired. Views such as this are nourishment for the soul.
Floras Lake State Park
We arrived in Bandon and set up camp quickly in the dark. It is a lot more humid in Bandon than you would expect, so a drop of 15 degrees at night can be the type of chill that sinks into your bones. (I will post some tips on how to stay warm camping in Humid environments on Culture Trekking YouTube Channel, be sure to check it out).
The next morning we were delighted with eggs and toast by Bree's sister, who lives in Grant's Pass. We headed to Floras Lake State Park and started a hike that would take us around a lake known for its kite surfing, into an enchanted forest. The forest had moss-covered branches, topsy-turvy turns and truly felt magical. We couldn't help skipping down the trail singing 'Lions, and tigers and bears OH MY!'
The trail is best to do in the summer as it is likely a bit drier on the trail itself and covered in shade for most of the journey once you make it around the lake. We decided on doing this in Spring as it would be cooler for the 3 children that accompanied our group. The kids loved this hike, playing among the logs strewn about, and splashing in the lake on the way to the hike.
If you look closely in the muddy puddles that dot the trail, you may just spot a Salamander. Bree attempted to kiss it, at her niece's delight, to see if it would turn into a handsome prince, but alas....it did not. I have taken too many microbiology classes to attempt that, lol, handsome prince or not.
If you plan to go in Spring or Fall, be sure you do this hike in Keens or sturdy water shoes.
After about 2.2 miles the kids started to get tired, the trail was then covered in water and required those without water shoes to start bushwhacking. Those with water shoes were walking through sludgy mud that had pinecones and sticks, fantastic cushioning for your feet. Half of the group turned back at this point and then 0.25 miles later Bree and I were the only ones left on the trail with our dogs.
We hiked another mile or two through the rough conditions & I finally told Bree we had gone too far and I could no longer hear the ocean (our final projected destination). Reluctantly she agreed, and we turned back around to head into downtown Bandon and meet up with the rest of the group.
On our way back to the group (2 miles back), I noticed a metal pole with an indiscriminate trail on our left. I examined this closer, and it was a sign to another trail, I could also hear the ocean at this point. Pointing this out to Bree, she said some things I will not repeat here, and we both yelled our frustrations for the Forest to be witness to.
At this juncture we were both so exhausted we decided not to attempt another trail as our party had already been waiting quite awhile for us and headed into town, grumbling the whole way. If you have problems with tight calves like I do, when you hit the sandy area, walk closer to the shoreline for a more solid surface. It really aided in being able to make it back to the car.
Now, this was the second time I chided myself for my out-of-shapeness. Bree's sister, however, is an active Triathalon Athlete, and even she was exhausted by the end of this trek. Moral of the story, don't try hiking in heavily wooded areas without GPS, or something to tell you exactly how far you have traveled. I luckily had my Fitbit on me (not entirely accurate, but good enough of a guess) to tell us we hiked a total of 4.1 miles in 4.1 miles out and a total of 8.7 miles that day......ouch. We visited Cranberries sweets, and the washed ashore gallery that day as well, which are also in Bandon. I will post a full list of activities in Bandon within the next few months.
Crabbing in Charleston
Day three was an exciting day for our group and the kids go crazy seeing us catch crab. We headed over to Charleston to visit Davey Jones locker to get our crab gear and pots.
Arrive early and rent a pot, otherwise you will have to pay $29.95 to buy one. Out of state-vs-in-state licenses are going to be different pricing.
After getting our licenses and crab pots, we headed over to the pier and found there were plenty of people attempting to catch some delicious Dungeness crab. There are guides to show you what kind of crabs you are allowed to catch and which ones you are not. It is based on gender and measurements, you keep the males and their shells must be a certain length from side to side. If you want to watch a show I'm totally obsessed with, Deadliest Catch, you can see how they measure the crabs when they pull their crab pots in.
The best time to catch the crab is when it has not been raining for several days, and also at the end of summer. (Stay tuned for all the details of how to catch crab, along with more tips and tricks to make it memorable).
I was able to catch one crab for the seven of us for dinner. This was not going to be very filling for all seven of us feasting on one crab. Luckily there are some friendly folks who taught us how to cook our crab, clean the crab and even had a few more crab waiting there for us in the shop at the pier. As far as I could gather, this was the only place that sold crab, and in March of 2018 it was $5.99 per pound and they clean and cook it for you right there. We elected to cook it ourselves back at camp, so they cleaned it for us, put them on ice for us.
The crab turned out to be delicious! The most delicious crab I have ever had! There is nothing better than getting fresh crab, or fish from the rivers and oceans. We melted our butter over the campfire which gave it a nice smoky taste and then cooked some S'mores to top it off. I called this, the redemption meal because of how good it truly was. Are you salivating yet? If this has tickled your fancy for crab, head over to Whole foods and get your Crabby on :)
Shores Acre State Park
This is the day that we were robbed.....by raccoons. Well, Bree's Sister was robbed anyway, her food cooler was broken into by Raccoons. The food was everywhere, bags were ripped open and strewn about the camp. None of us thought that Raccoons knew how to open coolers, but apparently, they are evolving and getting smarter. Consider yourself warned!
Bree and I salvaged breakfast with French Toast, Eggs, and Turkey Bacon. The group then headed to Shores Acre State Park. The best time to go here is at High Tide, this way you can see just how powerful the ocean truly is. In spring and summer you won't be able to witness the full extent of mother nature, but during a Winter Storm....prepare to be awed by the power of water.
There is a small shelter with a viewing platform that you can appreciate just how much the land has changed from the relentless pounding of the sea. Here you will also learn of a logging millionaire that built a mansion on these shores, complete with tennis courts that have since sunk into the ocean. If you pay attention you will see a large slab of concrete peeking out from under a blanket of Ivy that use to be the spot where his tennis courts were.
If you take the trail to the right of the viewing platform you will be able to see these tennis courts. Approximately 200 feet beyond the tennis courts is a unique area filled with, what I call, bubble rocks. These rocks and their current shapes, pockets, and bubble-like appearances were what has been sculpted by the seat itself. explore all the nooks and crannies with your kids or friends and witness the wonder of nature.
One thing I must stress to all my readers is to NEVER challenge the ocean, it will always win. The people in Oregon call those who visit, 'Flat-landers', those who come on vacation and do not have a healthy respect for the ocean.
Do not travel in Oregon without a Tide Table booklet, these are available at any visitors center or major port city center. You can turn your back on the ocean and the next thing you know, you will be swept out to sea by the 'sneeker waves', as the Oregonians call them.
Face rock Wayside Beach and Sandy Labyrinths:
After some downtime after Bree's sister's family headed home, we went out to Face rock Wayside Beach for a special experience. I was particularly excited for this adventure. At Face Rock Wayside Beach, you will find a group of individuals that are committed to inner peace, healing and reconnecting with the humans that surround us.
This group was started by a man named Denny, who in an effort to find that inner peace, you started to draw in the sand. Circles in the Sand The drawings soon became large, intricate works of art that were a walking meditation for him. Word grew and soon it expanded into a Community of like-minded individuals who meet on the weekends to take the walk. Each walk has a theme and can be up to 0.5 miles of walking.
There is encouragement given as you decide to take the walk through the circles, to disconnect from the world around you and realize happiness comes not from our electronics but from the peace we find within our own hearts and minds. It helped me recenter my beliefs for our own community, that in order to truly be the change I wish to see in the world, first I need to be happy with myself.
Rain, Snow, Waterfalls, and Racoons
After heading back to camp from the Circles in the sand appearance, we were enjoying a lazy and euphoric evening. Luckily our dogs were around, the rasciliy raccoon tripped over my tent stake, and triggered Zoey into a barking frenzy. Zoey is my dog that is part Cocker Spaniel, part poodle and definitely loves to chase animals of any kind.
My dog likes to think she is a bear, but in
We couldn't do much with our garbage as we had just been headed to bed, so we put the garbage in our extra cardboard box. The next morning we found the garbage bag ripped into, but all garbage was neatly contained in this box. We loaded it, and all our gear up into the car and headed out to Silver Falls State Park.
Haceta Head Lighthouse
Haceta Head is part of an interconnecting network of seven miles of varying difficulty of trails. You can stay in this lighthouse as a B&B, and then traipse down the trails viewing the seals, Eagles, and all wildlife along the trails. Explore the tide pools, go sea glass hunting, or simply enjoy the cool breezes coming off the Ocean.
We spent an hour or two in the area exploring trails and hunting for sea glass. It was o relaxing and wish we would have had more time in this area.
This is known as the drainpipe of the sea. This natural sea cave pounded out by the crashing waves is about 20 feet deep (approximately). Then the roof caved in and created an opening that sucked in the sea and pounded it into the floor. Eventually it became known as Thor's well. Like most everything else in Oregon, this phenomenon is its most glorious at high tide. If you want an even more spectacular show, go at sunrise or sunset as well and get a shot that will shock even the most professional of photographers.
Silver Falls State Park
In checking the weather on the way to Silver Falls State Park, I discovered we were heading to an area where it was actually going to snow. I only own a 3 season tent and was worried about being too cold when we got there, especially Zoey as she doesn't handle temperatures lower than 45 degrees very well. Luckily Bree was able to reserve a small Yurt or cabin for us for when we arrived at Silver Falls State Park. These are often equipped with an outdoor firepit, picnic table, electricity, beds, and a small heater that really does a stellar job. We were both so happy to have a warm place to dry off our clothes, we stayed here awhile just to enjoy the warmth.
The cabin costs about $61 per night with dogs. At Silver Falls State Park there are only two cabins that are available for those with animals, so be sure to book early.
Many trails within Silver Falls State Park do not allow animals on them (for unknown reasons other than water contamination). So renting a cabin is a great way for you to put the pooches in a warm area that is contained and protected from visiting wildlife. Our first stop was to South Falls, the most iconic waterfall of the entire park. This towering monstrosity drops 177 feet (53.95 meters) into the River below. There are several different areas to take iconic photos, the first being at the top of the viewing platform. This is a platform where you can park your car and walk to the edge of the stone shelf and take a photo. The other photo areas are along the trail itself, with one location before the bridge, and one location on the bridge itself.
From the bridge you have several options
1- Continue along the trail that will bring you to a total of 10 different Waterfalls, each with its own unique appearance.
2- Take the trail up, around, and behind the waterfall. This is the option we chose as we were running out of daylight. Hiking behind the waterfall was not like anything I have experienced. The sheer drop of the water into the river below sends reverberating sounds into the caverns that you hike through. It truly is an experience like none other, as these sounds are so loud you can hardly hear yourself speak and feel the thunder sink into your chest.
We stayed behind the waterfall for some time, getting soaked from the spray of the waterfall and the rain that had begun for the evening. I wanted to stay there forever, just watching the mesmerizing fall of the water into the river below.
Bring a Poncho with you, or a garbage bag that you can drape over yourself to help you from getting soaked. If you are taking photos, make sure that your camera is either waterproof or has a protective covering like a shower cap on it to help keep out the majority of the spray from the waterfall.
Giants, Elves, and getting lost in Ferngully:
Leaving the warmth of that cabin was entirely too difficult. I wanted to stay and explore all the waterfalls within Silver Falls State Park! Alas, our itinerary did not allow for enough time to explore properly. If you want to properly explore Silver Falls State Park, make sure you allot for AT LEAST 4 days in this park. Loading up our gear, and our pups, we headed to Willamette National Forest to hike the Tamolitch Blue Pool Trail.
When we arrived at this trail, we were both greeted by a place that looked as if fairies would live here. This hike tracks the river for about 2.0 miles up to a spectacular Blue Pool of water fed by the McKenzie River. We assumed that it would be easy for us to spot, but after hiking for what seemed like ages, we ran out of time and ended up turning back. We did not have GPS, nor did our cell phones have service to let us know where we were.
After coming back home we realized we were 0.25 miles away from where it actually was. I don't believe that trail is only 2.5 miles though personally, my Fitbit said I had gone 3.92 miles by the time we turned around. We were extremely disappointed about missing this feature as this is a very popular trail. Be sure you explore the Tamolitch Blue Pool Trail on Google Maps and drop the little man to see what it looks like on a normal day. There are several areas that appear to be the right spot, but alas are not.
The trail was not a total loss for me, I had no idea what we were hiking towards, so wasn't really disappointed when we had to turn around. The trail was absolutely stunning! There was moss over EVERYTHING and the areas that you could see the river were breathtaking. When I visit Oregon again, I will definitely have to do this trail again as I really enjoyed just playing in this forest that looked like I was walking in Ferngully.
Bigelow Hot Springs
Hiking 6-8 miles a day for me is a big deal, I have a typical desk job that I sit for most of the day taking care of my patients. Needless to say, my body hurt by day 6 and I was ready for a nice soak in a boiling Hot Spring. Heading to Bigelow Hot Springs after our failed attempt at reaching the Blue Pool. Parking the car in a nearby parking slot, we headed back across the road and to the left trail along the bank of the river.
The Bigelow Hot Springs was only a 0.1-mile trek in (if that). Make sure you come with water shoes because the rocks are not friendly on bare feet. This Hot Springs I feel was very deceiving in many ways. When you first see it, it is on the right-hand side of the river with rocks that form a sort of hot tub appearance. The bank of the river is 12 inches away from this Hot Spring and would be fantastic in the Summertime.
There was steam coming off the top of the water and my excitement level peaked because I thought for sure it was going to be piping hot. I peeled off my clothes with my swimming suit underneath I fumbled my way across the rocks and into the pool, anticipating delicious warmth from the frigid cold air. I was sorely disappointed at the initial dip of my foot but wanted it to be warm so badly I decided to venture further into the pool. There was no area of this Hot Spring that was an actual HOT spring, it was more like a tepid bath......highly disappointing only because it was March and very cold still in Oregon.
We only stayed in the Bigelow Hot Spring for about five minutes. If you were to come in the summertime it would be fantastic though. The spring would be tepid enough to not overheat you, a good place to wash off the grime of camping and lounge by the river. In the Spring and Fall getting out of this spring will be frosty, not to the point of snot-sickles.
Whatever part of your body you decide to immerse in the water will quickly become numb upon emerging from the spring. Cougar Hot Springs is the better Hot Springs as it is so hot, that you have to experience it in small doses. Unfortunately, the road was closed due to a rock slide and we could not safely reach it according to the Willamette National Forest Service Website. Make sure to check conditions of roads prior to visiting the different areas in the Pacific Northwest as the road conditions are dynamic. If you want to check out other Hot Springs in Oregon, check out the Oregon Hot Springs Website, for the information you will need about the different Hot Springs.
A Perfectly Picturesque Conclusion with Sand dollars:
There are not many people that know about this beach, and I hesitate to share this with you because it is so fantastic but come on, I have to share it with my Culture Trekking Crew! It is marked as just a Picnic area in Crescent City, but is a beach full of Sand dollars!
If you go at low tide earlier in the day you will see that the beach has sand dollars. When Bree told me about this I imagined a beach with all the Sand dollars in perfect condition lining the Beach. When you actually get there, you have to look for the Sand dollars. I would suggest going close to the waterline and looking for white pieces.
If you find a greenish looking Sand Dollar, please put it back as this is still
The sunsets here are amazing and would suggest you take a picnic and enjoy it as a perfect ending to your trip along the Southern Oregon Coast.
The Lessons Learned for our next Oregon Coast Camping Trip:
Overall the trip was an utter success, with many memories that will stay with me for a very long time. Some things that I took away from this trip that I would do differently for next time: get a paper map for any trails we go on, get a GPS device, bring more sweaters, allow more time for enjoying the journey, and don't try to take a dip in the hot springs when it is 45 degrees outside and you can't defrost in a hot shower afterwards.
Make sure to check out my car camping list for any items you may need for your trip. This list will continue to be honed down and carefully crafted to help you travel. I will also be posting detailed videos of my experience & crucial information for your trip on the Culture Trekking YouTube Channel, be sure to subscribe and stay tuned.
Top Highlights of our Oregon Coast Camping trip were definitely Silver Falls State Park, Tokatee Falls, and the Sand Dollar Beach. As always my friends: Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the Flipside.
Welcome to Culture Trekking!
My name is Janiel, a leader in the travel industry with over 20+ years of experience with international travel. I specialize in solo female travel, cultural connections, sustainable adventures, food and history to help make your travel experiences fun, meaningful, and delicious. My experience in travel, and my personal story have allowed me to get published in Fodor's Travel, Atlas Obscura, Metro.co.uk, Trip Advisor, and multiple Podcast interviews. You can find me on pretty much every social media channel YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok. To read more about me and my story click here. If you are a brand and would like to work with me, click here.