Consider the Path Less Traveled

Most coastal trails are open year-round, but fall is an especially excellent time to be on the coast. The sun is shining, the air is crisp, the temperatures are moderate, the fog has lifted, and the winds are just a gentle breeze.

This fall (and all year round) discover the enchanting hikes along the Southern Oregon Coast, where a myriad of textures awaits. Immerse yourself in the soft sand on beaches and dunes, marvel at the vibrant hues of evergreen and redwood trees, and trek across rugged hills and rocky cliffs. You’ll also find abundant water sources from the turbulent ocean to tranquil lakes, rivers, creeks, and sloughs.

Knowing most visitors to the coast gravitate to saltwater and sand, we thought we’d introduce you to trails along alternative waterways. Embark on a scenic hike along one of our serene lakes or peaceful sloughs and wrap yourself in the embrace of these freshwater pools. Once you experience their tranquility and charm, you’ll undoubtedly yearn for more!

Two People Hiking Southern Oregon Coast
Hiking on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by Julie Miller

Plunge into the Wonders of New River and Floras Lake

Situated near Langlois, New River, and Floras Lake have been acknowledged by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as invaluable habitats for numerous rare flora species. Consequently, the BLM has designated them, along with the surrounding area, an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Embark on a hike along the trails that wind through this exceptional habitat and plunge into the natural wonders that eagerly await your discovery.

One particularly delightful loop near New River encompasses the North, Ridge, Huckleberry Hill, Ocean View, Muddy Lake, and East Muddy Lake Trails. This highly recommended route covers approximately 2.4 miles and is ideal for families of all ages. Conveniently intersected by the road to the boat ramp, the loop offers a shortcut for those seeking a quicker return. Or, if you find yourself with some extra time and energy, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Old Bog Trail, where you’ll uncover a fascinating glimpse into the rich history of the local cranberry industry.

Connecting New River to Floras Lake is the enjoyable two-mile, out-and-back New River to Floras Lake Trail. Once you reach the lake, the 5.3-mile Floras Lake Waterfall Trail awaits, providing a moderately challenging yet rewarding experience. Meandering along the sandy path, you’ll have ample opportunities to investigate spur trails leading to the beach, allowing you to bask in the splendor of the ocean.

If you’re looking for more to do after your hike, Floras Lake is a renowned haven for wind-powered water sports enthusiasts and offers an enticing opportunity. Whether you’re an aspiring windsurfer or looking to refine your skills, you’ll receive a warm welcome here.

Ocean Floras Creek Floras Lake Langlois Oregon by Manuela Durson
Floras Lake, New River, and the Pacific Ocean; Photo by Manuela Durson
Forest Blacklock Point Langlois by Annie Williams 3
Forest trail near Floras Lake; Photo by Annie Williams

Navigate A Nature Lover’s Paradise at South Slough Reserve

Land, water, and sky converge on the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve near Charleston to create an endearing oasis of burgeoning forests, serene estuaries, and winding trails. The South Slough Reserve is home to a lavish array of wildlife and bird species, making the South Slough Loop Trail an absolute treat for birders and nature enthusiasts.

With well-marked paths, sturdy boardwalks, and charming bridges, this loop trail offers an exceptional hiking experience. As you journey along the trail, prepare to be captivated by the shaded “tunnels” that transport you into a realm of enchantment. Pause at the overlook platforms to observe the abundant avian and mammalian wildlife. Marvel at a diverse array of stately trees including the Port Orford cedar, the stylish western hemlock, the noble Sitka spruce, and the imposing Douglas fir. Admire the lush undergrowth teeming with leafy ferns and huckleberry bushes laden with berries.

The trail welcomes adventurers year-round. From bizarre and showy mushrooms in the fall to vibrant blooms in spring and a wonderland in winter, each visit promises a unique experience.  And, with its easy terrain, hiking this kid-friendly trail is a fantastic opportunity for little explorers to connect with nature and create lifelong memories.

For more enjoyment and a different perspective, bring your kayak or canoe and glide along the South Slough water trail. Paddle silently along the reserve’s pristine, winding waterways to chance upon concealed coves and sheltered beaches. Every turn reveals a new view of the surrounding wilderness where you may spot eagles, herons, otters, deer, and elk.

Davis Slough South Slough Coos Bay Oregon by Erik Urdahl
Davis Slough at South Slough National Estuarine Reserve; Photo by Erik Urdahl
Great Blue Heron South Coast Erik Urdahl
Great Blue Heron at South Slough National Estuarine Reserve; Photo by Erik Urdahl
River Otter South Coast Steve Dimock
River Otter on the South Coast: Photo by Steve Dimock
Bird Watching Coos Bay Justin Myers
Bird Watching; Photo by Justin Myers

Traverse A Perfect Blend of Beauty and Tranquility at Bluebill Lake

Situated just south of North Bend near Horsfall Beach in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the alluring Bluebill Lake Trail is a perfect blend of beauty and tranquility. Stroll along this undemanding 1.3-mile loop encircling the lake and you’ll be beguiled by the abundant wildlife and the soothing melodies of the nearby ocean. With easy access and clearly marked pathways, this scenic trail showcases a delightful tapestry of forests, lakes, dunes, and marshes, inviting you to embark on an in-depth exploration of its innate wonders.

As the trail meanders through the eastern section, you’ll be treated to views of Bluebill Lake amidst a backdrop of Western hemlock trees and the vivid tones of huckleberry and salal bushes. At the southern end of the lake, an expansive boardwalk elegantly preserves the delicate wetlands while providing an opportunity to observe tadpoles and aquatic insects up close. When you reach the western stretch of the trail you’ll have the option to traverse the lakeside to catch glimpses of flourishing marsh plants and the imprints left behind by curious creatures, or opt for a parallel path through the sun-dappled shore pine forest.

Throughout the year, water levels of Bluebill Lake are known to fluctuate, bringing about a remarkable transformation of the landscape that beckons you to return time and time again. What was once a peaceful grassy meadow becomes a fascinating scene of elevated lake waters gently lapping against the wooden boardwalk. Regardless of the season and water levels, the trail remains open. Don’t miss the sight of hummingbirds gracefully swooping from great heights during their spring courtship, and keep an eye out for the diverse array of mushrooms that thrive here in the fall.

Banana Slug and Leaves Coquille by Michael Sherma
Banana slug and leaves; Photo by Michael Sherma
Mushrooms South Slough Charleston Oregon by Cort Muller
Mushrooms on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by Cort Muller
Salamander South Slough Charleston Oregon by Cort Muller4
Northwestern Salamander; Photo by Cort Muller
Woman Hiking Coos Bay Oregon by Justin Myers
Hiking near Coos Bay; Photo by Justin Myers

Take a Little Hike at Eel Lake

Get ready to be enthralled by the incredible views of the varying landscapes that await you along the Eel Lake Trail West, located in Tugman State Park near Lakeside. With its gentle inclines and declines, this easy 1.1-mile out-and-back path welcomes adventurers of all skill levels, ensuring accessibility and enjoyment for everyone.

Soak up the rainforest-like ambiance as you stroll through lush tropical wetland plants and lofty pines. Find yourself pausing frequently to admire the majestic Cedar and Fir trees, the graceful hanging moss, and the verdant ferns. Enjoy the pleasure of crossing a charming wooden bridge and be rewarded at the end with a strategically placed bench that offers a panoramic vista of the peaceful lake. The Eel Lake Trail West is an invitation to explore and connect with nature at its finest.

For a more invigorating adventure, consider taking the Eel Lake Trail to the east around the lake. This moderately challenging route spans 6.1 miles out and back and offers a captivating experience similar to the west trail. Keep in mind that during the rainy season, the trail can get a bit muddy. For the best experience, we recommend exploring this trail between March and October.

Eel Lake Lakeside Oregon by Manuela Durson
Eel Lake in Lakeside; Photo by Manuela Durson
Eel Lake Hiking Trail at Tugman State Park Lakeside Oregon by Blume Bauer
Eel Lake hiking trail; Photo by Blume Bauer

Discover Lake Marie on an Enchanting Loop Trail

Travel the Southern Oregon Coast and discover this popular one-mile loop trail that meanders around beautiful Lake Marie. The scenic Lake Marie Loop Trail welcomes leisurely strolls, treating you to lovely views of the serene waters and the lush forest that surrounds them. Located in the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park near Winchester Bay, Lake Marie is a restful retreat perfect for nature enthusiasts.

This well-marked trail is easily accessible from the parking area making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels, including families with children. As you scout the trail, you’ll be greeted by an abundance of vibrant vegetation and the melodic songs of various bird species. Truly a paradise for birdwatchers! Informative signs along the way provide fascinating insights into the area’s natural features. And don’t miss the short, 0.5-mile round trip detour to the dunes on the western side of the trail. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with impressive vistas of the dunes, trees, and ocean.

While the Lake Marie Trail itself is relatively brief, it is part of a larger network of trails within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. If you’re eager for a longer adventure, wander onto other nearby trails or partake in the many recreational activities available amidst the awe-inspiring dunes. And, don’t forget to check out the Umpqua River Lighthouse while you’re in the area!

American Coot Bandon Dunes Bandon Oregon by Dimock2
American Coot on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by Steve Dimock
Bird Eating Berry Bandon Dunes Oregon by Dimock
Bird eating a berry on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by Steve Dimock

Tips for a Memorable Adventure on Coastal Trails

Coastal trails are typically open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring, summer, and especially in early fall when the weather is milder. Trails can be wet during the rainy season, so be prepared for muddy conditions. Dog owners are welcome to bring their furry companions on most trails, provided they are kept on a leash. And, as with any outdoor adventure, it’s a good idea to check for the latest trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any park regulations that may be in place before visiting.

Also, note that many areas on the coast are considered nesting habitat for the western snowy plover. Dogs and other specified recreational activities are prohibited in certain areas between March 15 and September 15 to accommodate nesting and encourage the recovery of this threatened species. Look for the signs, and as always, be kind to the coast and to our feathered friends.

Forest Southern Oregon Coast by Eric Muhr Unsplash
Forest on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by Erik Muhr
Black tailed deer buck on the Southern Oregon Coast
Black-Tailed Deer on the Southern Oregon Coast; Photo by RK Willis

Header photo by Erik Urdahl