On the Tail — A Review of Hobbit Trail and China Creek Loop

Located in the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, the Hobbit Trail and China Creek Trail Loop is a four-mile loop that winds hikers down the beach and through the Siuslaw National Forest.

Aug. 4, 2021 — This summer, recreationists in search of a hike with multiple path options and the best views the Central Coast has to offer need look no further than the Hobbit Trail Loop. Located in the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, the Hobbit Trail and China Creek Loop is a four-mile loop that can be broken into several smaller hikes depending on the visitor’s preferences.

To complete the full loop as reviewed here, you should follow the specific instructions for parking and hiking as listed below. There are also tips on various stopping points that can be chosen throughout, should a visitor not want to complete the full loop. Additionally, Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park has a campground, as well as a smaller parking lot for the Hobbit Trailhead, and more information for those areas can be found at stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=85.

To access the loop trailhead from Florence, people can take Highway 101 north and continue past Heceta Head Lighthouse for about 2.5 miles to the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park. Turn left toward the beach to access the Day Use Area parking lot (the campground can be accessed here by turning right instead).

Take the one-way road to the right and follow the path to the parking lot. There is no fee to park, but there is a four-hour time limit at the Day Use Area; camping and overnight parking are only allowed at the designated campground. Dogs are allowed throughout the park as long as they remain on a leash. 

Once parked, visitors can follow the designated path to the beach. There are restrooms and a picnic area with barbecue pits located before the trail that opens out onto the beach, as well as a dump station.

Just past the picnic area, a walkway with a short tunnel through the forest and shrubbery leads hikers onto driftwood steps and down to the beach. 

For visitors simply hoping to enjoy the beach and perhaps do a bit of rockhounding, this portion of the beach offers wide, expansive shorelines and can be walked to the north, but to stay on the trail, walk due south. The shore is wide enough that visitors can choose to traverse across the hard-packed wet sand for a less arduous walk or stay in the dry sand for a more intense workout.

On your left, the coast is lined with sand dunes covered in pine trees. The trail leads down the beach and after roughly 1.2 miles is marker 93, which begins the path up the side of the mountain. At this point, hikers may walk another half mile or so south before the shoreline dead ends with rocks and mountains that cannot be circumvented. 

If you’d like to avoid the forest portion of the hike, feel free to explore the tidepools and rock formations in the area and return north back up the beach to the parking lot. To continue the trail’s full loop, follow the path at marker 93 on the left to begin ascending the mountain.

The hiking path is formed by the roots of the trees and the sand from the dunes, and they wind steeply upwards along the face of the mountain. The path is also partially paved so the ground is always solid, but in rainy weather, it can be muddy and slippery. 

There are various tunnels and alcoves tucked into the sides of the path along the way, but anyone larger than a hobbit would have trouble navigating through them — most of the “secret” hobbit holes are only large enough to crawl though. 

It is recommended that you stay on the main path to enjoy the trail, and you will want to follow it as it curves up and to the left through the majority of the forest.

A large portion of this part of the trail is covered overhead by foliage and trees, and there is a great deal of shade to keep hikers cool. At various points, you can see the ocean peeking through the trees as you scale the mountain for roughly .3 miles.

At about 1.5 miles in, you will reach the west side of Highway 101 and the trailhead that leads from Hobbit Trail to Heceta Head Lighthouse. At this point, hikers may choose to follow that trail to the lighthouse, about 1.5 miles, or to continue on the Hobbit Trail through the Valley Trail and China Creek Loop. 

To continue the trail loop, carefully walk across Highway 101 to reach the Hobbit Trail parking lot. There is no crosswalk or traffic signal, so hikers should be extremely cautious when crossing the road. 

The Hobbit Trail parking lot can also be used for free, and visitors who choose to do only the forest/valley side of the trail loop can begin at this point.

From the lot, walk down the hill and to the left to begin the Valley Trail. This portion of the hike is also heavily covered overhead by the trees from the forest. There is a short bridge over Blowout Creek, and some beautiful lookout points and vistas.

At about the 2.6-mile mark, hikers will reach the starting point of the China Creek Loop. You can either turn right and walk the loop, which is about a mile long, or you can continue straight and at the clearing make a left. If you walk the loop, you will cross two short bridges at different points of China Creek, each with beautiful views of the water, flora and fauna in the area, before reaching a bench to rest at in front of the aforementioned clearing.

Once at the clearing, if you took the loop, turn right to follow the sign that says “Campground ½ Mile.” If you skipped the loop and walked straight into the clearing, you will turn left to walk up the path towards the campground. Follow the path up and over the hill, and then, at about the 3.7-mile mark (if you took the China Creek Loop), you will reach another sign that says “Campground ¼ Mile, Oregon Coast Trail.” Head to the right to follow the sign — the fork to the left is a private road that is not an official part of the trail.

Continue on the Valley Trail path until you reach the paved road that leads into the campground. If you turn right, you will walk into the Carl G. Washburne Campground. Turn left to head back toward Highway 101, which you will be able to carefully walk across at just about the four-mile mark.

At this point, you will have reached the beginning of the loop, and you can walk into the Carl G. Washburne Day Use Area parking lot using the walking path shortcut directly in front of you. Be cautious when walking through as it is part of the one-way road you came in on to park at the Day Use Area. A final tunnel of trees leads hikers back to the parking lot where they began.

With a total elevation gain of roughly 400 feet, this trail offers some of the most picturesque and breathtaking views in the area while maintaining a moderate level of difficulty throughout. Additionally, because of the many options the trail offers as starting and ending points, visitors can truly choose their own adventure and experience something different each time.

For more information on hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, visit https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=v.page&id=95.

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