You’ll find incredibly scenic hiking in the area around Carl G. Washburne State Park, 14 miles north of Florence on U.S. 101. About a mile south of the park entrance, find the parking area for the Hobbit Trail on the east side of the highway. This salal-lined trail winds 0.4 miles through dense forest thickets of pine, fir, and rhododendrons to the secluded three-mile-long beach. From the same trailhead, another path takes off uphill to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. In its 1.75-mile run, the trail gains quite a bit of elevation and passes some outstanding viewpoints.
Also starting at the same U.S. 101 parking area, the China Creek Trail (a.k.a. the Valley Trail) runs 1.7 miles on the east side of the highway through a series of elk meadows to the Washburne campground. If the parking area is full, head to the day-use lot across the highway from the campground, catch the Valley Trail near the campground entrance, and hike to the Hobbit and Heceta Head Trails.
Camping in Carl G. Washburne State Park
Even though busy Highway 101 lies right next to Washburne State Park, a bank of native plants shields campers from most road noise, so you hear the roar of the ocean instead of traffic. Sites are spacious, with some abutting China Creek, and elk are frequent visitors. Short hikes lead from the campground to a two-mile-long beach, extensive tidepools along the base of the cliffs, and a three-mile trail to Heceta Head Lighthouse. Just three miles south of the park are the Sea Lion Caves, where an elevator takes visitors down into a cavern for an insider’s view of the life of a sea lion.
Campsites, facilities: There are 56 sites for tents or RVs up to 45 feet long (full and partial hookups), seven primitive walk-in sites, two yurts, and a hiker/biker camping area. Picnic tables, fire pits, drinking water, garbage bins, and a dump station are provided. Firewood and restrooms with flush toilets and showers are available. Leashed pets are permitted.
Reservations, fees: Reservations are not accepted, except for yurts. Sites are $21-31 per night, $5 per person per night for hikers/bicyclists, and yurts are $44-54 per night; $7 per night per additional vehicle. Some credit cards are accepted. Open year-round.
Directions: From Florence and U.S. 101, drive north for 12.5 miles to the park entrance road (it is well signed, 10 miles south of the town of Yachats). Turn east and drive a short distance to the park.
Contact: Carl G. Washburne State Park, 541/547-3416 or 800/551-6949.