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Oregon Coast Trail plan seeks to improve trail connections

A view of the Pacific Ocean and rocky coastline framed by trees on the Oregon coast.
Rachael McDonald
The view of the coast from a section of the Oregon Coast Trail south of Yachats.

The Oregon Coast Trail is a roughly 400-mile route that follows the coastline from border to border. A plan to better connect pieces of the OCT has just been released.

A bridge on US Highway 101. Water is visible under the bridge.
Chris Lehman
The Oregon Coast Trail has lengthy sections that require hikers to walk on the shoulder of roads, including US 101 in Depoe Bay, pictured here in Jan. 2023.

The Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan was years in the making. It includes an assessment of current trail conditions and recommendations for improvements, including connecting gaps that exist in the trail. Cole Grisham is with the Federal Highway Division, which helped with the planning process.

“There’s three types of gaps,” Grisham said. “Areas where the trail was never fully complete and there isn’t really an alignment; areas where the trail is only available perhaps at low tides; or areas where it’s not necessarily safe to hike, such as areas in dangerous parts of U.S. 101, along the side of the road.”

Map of the Oregon Coast Trail showing gaps.
Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan
Map of the Oregon Coast Trail showing gaps.

Grisham said in some cases the solution is better signage. Others are more complex.

For example at the Heceta Head tunnel on the central coast, instead of making hikers and bikers traverse the tunnel on Highway 101, the plan sends them inland to walk through the forest then return to the beach.

“Our question was, ‘Is this feasible? Are we actually meeting the intent of the Oregon Coast Trail by cutting inland like this through the forest?” Grisham said. “We used some different data to try and figure out if its viable or not.”

Grisham said they found out people were already using the Forest Service roads to avoid walking on Highway 101.

This plan is a the culmination of over three years of work between Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Solutions, and FHWA Western Federal Lands. It was guided by the insight of staff from Oregon DOT, Department of Land Conservation and Development, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tribal governments, coastal cities and counties, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, private businesses, and (most importantly) many dedicated recreation users and advocates who know these trails inside and out. It was developed by the staff at Parametrix.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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