There was a moment — shortly after chasing sunbeams at Falcon Cove Beach — when I realized that Oregon actually rivals Hawaii and Colorado as my favorite state. That moment came when we arrived at Hug Point State Park and discovered that the sunbeams had not go away — that the forest was infiltrated by a thousand shafts of light, that the surf in the distance was providing an epic soundtrack, and that a beachside waterfall awaited us in the mist.
I could get used to a place like Oregon.
In fact, if I lived here, Hug Point State Park would be my hangout. My perennial place for a weekend day trip from Portland.
If it is not the prettiest beach on the northern Oregon coast, it is certainly among the most intriguing. Situated snug between two rocky headlands, the beach here is expansive at low tide, and so reduced at high tide that you cannot pass the northern headland at all, dubbed Hug Point.
From the parking lot, the beach access is super easy. To the right, the beach stretches up and around a sea cave and a forested cliff. But a quick walk around this bluff reveals the real showpiece of Hug Point State Park — a simple waterfall beneath to a sandstone hoodoo, elegantly gliding over a 15-foot drop directly onto the sand. From here, the creek fans out and expands, trickling to the sea at a depth of maybe an inch. Rarely have a seen such a moving, symbolic convergence of land and sea.
We spent a good hour exploring the Falls Creek drainage, playing under the falls, and wandering into the surf. The falls were much thinner than I had hoped; clearly it had barely rained, leading to very low water. And by 10am, day-trippers from Portland started to arrive and the beach got quite crowded. But I’m glad we had it to ourselves when we did. It’s far too good to be a secret, but for an hour it felt that way.
Before we left for lunch at our vacation home, we took a walk along Hug Point before the tide submerged it. Back when the only autoroute up and down this portion of the coast was the beach, automobiles would have to wait for low tide, and “hug” the steeps cliff on a flattened stretch of barnacle-encrusted rock. We walked its length twice, spying hermit crabs and running our hands over the mussels that clung to its surface.
At its base, there was a gaping sea cave to explore as well as several tide pools loaded with anemones. Varenna would poke them and giggle as they retreated into a blob shape. Between the falls, the surf, the magical fairyland forest and the goofy critters in the tide pools, it was as though someone designed the beach for curious four-year-olds.
I would have loved to have spent more time there.