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Originally published Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Walkabout

Visit the beach dedicated to the governor who opened Oregon's beaches

Location: Ten miles south of Cannon Beach, Ore. Length: About a half-mile walk down a dirt/gravel trail to a sand/cobble beach. Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate...

Location: Ten miles south of Cannon Beach, Ore.

Length: About a half-mile walk down a dirt/gravel trail to a sand/cobble beach.

Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate.

Setting: As a companion hike to nearby Nehalem Bay State Park (described in last week's column), this state park just to the north offers a very different sort of experience. You'll share the half-mile walk above a creek though a lush forest (including old-growth Sitka spruce) with many people lugging surfboards, and end up at Short Sand Beach along Smuggler's Cove. If you want shade, try to get there early before the surfers stake out encampments up against the base of the bluffs below the few trees. A great place to eat and read is at the picnic tables on the little grassy plateau with trees just above the beach. For hike variety, return through the walk-in campground to end up at the upper parking lot.

Highlights: This 2,484-acre park's namesake, former Oregon Gov. Oswald West (1911-15), was a farsighted man who set aside the entire Oregon coastline (nearly 400 miles) for public access. Note the tilted rock layers in the hillside above the beach. Waves have eroded these sandstones and mudstones to form the sandy cove, while Cape Falcon (just to the north) and Neahkanie Mountain (farther south) are made of basalt, volcanic rock that resists erosion. You can also pick up the Oregon Coast Trail near Short Sand Beach, which leads 3.8 miles to the summit of Neahkanie Mountain before continuing south, or goes north 2.4 miles around Cape Falcon to continue north.

Facilities: Restrooms and water fountains at trailhead, above beach, and at seasonal walk-in campground. Closest groceries and restaurants located four miles south in Manzanita.

Restrictions: Leash laws and scoop in effect in park; however, dogs allowed off-leash at the beach.

Directions: Head 10 miles south of Cannon Beach on Highway 101, and the huge day-use parking lot is on your left (a smaller, upper parking lot farther ahead on the right is for walk-in campers). The trailhead to Short Sand Beach is near the restrooms at the north end of the main lot (pick up a trail map here).

For more information: 800-551-6949, 503-368-3575, or www.oregonstateparks.org.

— Cathy McDonald,

Special to The Seattle Times

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's a travel guidebook editor and researcher at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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