Overlooking the tiny beach town of Manzanita, cut off from the ocean by the Oregon Costal Highway, is one of the most surreal mountains I’ve ever hiked. Is it some alpine peak requiring ropes and ice axes, no. But does it hold some of the most incredible, panoramic views of the Oregon coastline, you bet it does. I’m talking about Neahkahnie Mountain. And on our road trip through Oregon this past summer, we stumbled upon this hike one morning, and couldn’t have been more surprised.
Growing up on the east coast, and doing a fair amount of growing up while I lived in New England after college, trees have always been a staple to the hiking trails. However, after moving out west, as weird as it sounds, tree covered trails have been something I dearly missed. Just because mountains tend to be covered by trees for the most part, doesn’t mean the hiking trails cut through them. In Utah, trails tend to navigate up exposed ridge lines or through open meadows, admittedly, are some of the most beautiful things in the world, but I still miss hiking through a dense forested with the sun barely breaking through the canopy overhead. Well, the hike up Neahkahnie gave me all that I missed, and more.
First off, we were not prepared for this hike. We were those “tourists” you see hiking the trail in flip flops and sandals, with no water, and only our cameras. We went into this hike thinking, “Well, we come from a mountain state, so anything here on the Oregon coast should be a piece of cake!” And boy were we wrong
The one thing that drastically differs from the Oregon hiking trails and Utah is the way the trail gets shaped due to all the rain. The trail, on a beautiful sunny day in June, was covered in slippery mud, and twisted roots and loose leaves. This was not ideal, but we pressed on for two reasons: one, we were stubborn and two, it was so beautiful. The trees, which I won’t even begin to pretend I know what species they are, towered so high above us. The vegetation covering the forest floor looked like something out of a Jurassic Park film. A semi tropical environment thick with lush green ferns and spaced out conifers that covered the hillside. Uphill, we could see only a sea of green, but off on the horizon, was an ocean of blue that never ended. Hiking this close to the ocean reminded us of Courtney and I’s first trip together, up to Acadia National Park. Both incredible places, but Oregon, in comparison, was out of this world.
As we slowly struggled our way uphill, slipping and sliding, trying to avoid as much of the mud as possible, we eventually reached the traversing section across the saddle of the mountain. According to the map, we were almost to the iconic viewpoint. Though we’d never heard of this mountain, or seen photos of it, we were so close to the goal that we couldn’t turn back, and thankfully we didn’t. After an hour hiking up the trail we reached an opening in the forest where we could make out the blue sky above. Unsure if this was it, we kept climbing uphill, onto a pinnacle above, and that’s when we saw a view that will be burned in my memory for the rest of my life.
Of all the many summits I’ve stood in my life, they all tend to look the same, especially in the high alpine of the rockies. Rarely do you get to see the valley floor below with a such a perspective that it quite literally renders you speechless. A strip of sand beach running off to the south, with white waves crashing down on it’s coast. To the east, a dense, lush forest that reminds me of New England. And, of course, to the west, the deep blue Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see. Of course, Gregor did not appreciate the view and was more interested in getting snacks or pets from the other hikers on top of the summit. But Court and I appreciated it so much to make up for his lack of enthusiasm.
After we took all the photos we could on our phones and cameras, we headed back down. As it turns out, the flip flops I wore had just as poor traction on the way down as they did on the way up. Who knew mud on a mountain side can feel just like skiing downhill. Eventually, we made it back down to our rented Van, parked just down the road from the North Trailhead where we met up with our friends Tyler and Jesse. That night, we got tacos to-go from the Mexican restaurant in the town of Manzanita and ate them on the beach while we enjoyed an amazing West Coast sunset. Oregon never let us down, in every place we visited, and Neahkahnie Mountain was just the icing on the cake!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.