Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast

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One of the Pacific coast’s most beautiful beaches, and one of my personal favorites, has just about everything you need, or could ever want in a beach.  Ecola State Park is easy to visit, and the views are spectacular.

Location

Ecola State Park is located at the north end of Cannon Beach.  As you exit US 101 and enter the town, watch for signs that appear to lead you down a small residential road.  Don’t worry, you’re headed the right way.

My Visit

When you enter Ecola State Park, you have two choices: drive straight ahead, and park at the Crescent Beach and Sea Lion Rocks overlook, or drive another mile or so, and stop at Indian Beach, where you can walk down to, and into, the surf.  I, of course, wanted to do both, but since I hoped to watch the sun set on the beach, I first headed to the overlook.

Admission to Ecola State Park is still quite reasonable, at $5 per vehicle.

If you’ve read through my 2004 visit to Ecola State Park, you might recognize this picture.  The photo I snapped of the walkway, Crescent Beach, and in the distance, Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, became one of my all-time favorites.  So, I was determined to try to re-create the exact picture, a full two years later.  Take a look at that picture, and this one, and see if you can spot the changes.

Everything you can see from the lookout point is basically the same.  This picture (which looks toward Indian Beach) is also nearly identical to the one I took in 2004.

You can also enjoy a nice view of Haystack Rock from the viewpoint trail, although from here, you can’t really appreciate its size.  Just think, that rock towers 235 feet above the water!

You can easily pick a spot anywhere along the trail, and gaze out at the water forever.  I tried to do that, and quickly found myself in the background of a wedding party’s photographs.  They certainly made a nice choice for their post-ceremony, pre-reception photo shoot.

Once you’ve thoroughly soaked in the view from all possible angles at this stop, head on down to Indian Beach.

I’ve been to this beach before, but somehow on my previous visit I failed to notice something remarkable: the staggering population of starfish, that hang out on the rocks and in tidal pools.  And these are big suckers, too–larger than your hand, and fatter, too.

Unfortunately, the starfish are somewhat difficult to photograph.  It’s rare to find one on display, with all five fingers perfectly extended.  Most are piled one on top of the other, in what would appear to be uncomfortable positions.  They also like to hang out just above the water line, or even below it.

To make the picture-taking even more difficult, I had forgotten to bring my tripod to the beach (it was in my suitcase, in the hotel, in Portland, all because the pushy bellhop insisted on taking my bags up to the room when I checked in!)

Even so, I was amazed at just how many starfish were hanging out here on Indian Beach.  I’m sure there were hundreds, and that’s just the ones I saw.  Some blend in so well with the rocks, that you have to stare for a while before they become apparent.

I think this is one of those rare rocks that didn’t have a single starfish attached.  But then again, maybe I just didn’t stare at it long enough.

Every inch of this beach is beautiful, no matter which way you turn.

While I’m pleased with this picture, I’m sorry to say that it was the last one I took on Day 1 of this trip.  My camera battery had a disappointingly short life, so I ended up having to do the most frustrating thing for a photographer: watch an inconceivably large ball of fire drop slowly behind jagged rocks, and into the sea–without taking a single picture.

This is not a beach that’s ideal for a casual swim.  You will find plenty of surfers here, but they’re all wearing bodysuits.  There’s a good reason–the water is terribly cold for most of the year.  I walked in the water (up to my ankles) for just a few minutes, and began to notice I could no longer feel my toes.  Oh, and if the chill doesn’t deter you, also remember, there are plenty of rip currents here, but no lifeguards.

Day 2 requires a long drive across eastern Oregon and Washington, and ends in the Idaho Panhandle.  So it makes sense to drive back to Portland to spend the night.  It will only take you a couple of hours.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.  Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.

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