Not only is Cannon Beach the state’s favorite beach, but it’s been voted one of the best beach towns in the country by Nat Geo! There’s no doubt this spot is one of the first images that come to mind when thinking of exploring the Oregon Coast.
Haystack Rock majestically juts out of the ocean, marine life thrives in the tide pools, hidden coves pumping out surf, and epic hikes for miles… There are so many things to do in Cannon Beach and its surroundings. Here’s your guide to the coolest adventures around!
Things to Do in Cannon Beach
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1. Haystack Rock Walk (Famous Thing to Do in Cannon Beach!)
You can’t list things to do in Cannon Beach without mentioning the iconic Haystack Rock. This impressive rock formation rises directly up from the shore, and at low tide, beachgoers can walk right up to it.
The rock towers 235 feet out of the sand, and when you can reach it, you will find a rainbow of sea stars and other fascinating tidepool creatures, with diverse birdlife flying overhead.
It is less than a mile to walk from the parking lot to Haystack Rock directly, but there are plenty of other things to admire if you want to take the hike a little further.
The Haystack Rock Trail spans 8.2 miles, passing gorgeous stretches of beach that are likely to be a lot more secluded once you pass the many tourists who have come to see the rock itself. The further you walk down the beach, the fewer people there are.
To really make a day of it, stay until the sun starts to set; the sunsets are out of this world, especially if you are lucky enough to visit when there are few clouds. Once the sun has gone down, it is time for a magical beach bonfire. It is one of the few beaches on the coast that allow bonfires; here are the rules you must read before burning.
If you don’t want to do the hard work yourself, some companies provide a bonfire package for you. Roast s’mores under the stars and listen to the sounds of the waves.
2. Ecola State Park (Popular Thing to Do in Cannon Beach!)
Just to the right of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park, and it’s a must-visit. The entrance road to the state park twists and winds through an old-growth forest until you emerge at one of the state’s most iconic viewpoints.
The park stretches for 9 miles along the coastline and is a perfect place for surfing, hiking, wildlife watching, sightseeing, and tide pool exploring.
The Tillamook Head National Recreation Trail takes you through almost the entire park, from Cannon Beach to Seaside! It extends for over 12 miles and will take you through a gorgeous rainforest, provide views of headlands and rocky outcrops, and you’ll even see “Terrible Tilly” or Tillamook Lighthouse, a lonely, abandoned lighthouse offshore known in the past for its dangerous commute.
The Clatsop Loop hike is just under 3 miles and provides some of the best views in the area all in one hike. For those with a surfboard and eager to ride a wave, Indian Beach is the spot for you! The waves here are pretty consistent and are rarely crowded. Summers are the best time to surf here.
While you’re at Indian Beach, look out for marine life in the tide pools and keep a keen eye open for eagle, elk, and even migrating gray whales during the winter and spring months.
3. Hug Point
Hug Point State Recreation Site is seriously stunning. Picture deep-sea caves carved into the sandstone and a seasonal waterfall running down the cliff of this rugged stretch of coastline. Although the area is small, it certainly packs in a lot of beauty.
Hug Point sits between Manzanita and Cannon Beach and used to be a stagecoach route that ran along the beach before the highway was built.
The main activity here is to take a walk along the beach and admire the incredible cliffs. There are some cool sea caves to explore and interesting rock formations.
You should be able to see Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach in the distance. The walk is about half a mile one way, so nothing too strenuous.
4. Oswald West State Park
The beautiful Oswald West State Park spans four miles along the Oregon Coast. The park has it all, with miles of trails leading through the dense, temperate rainforest, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, and secluded sandy beaches.
There are a few day-use picnic areas, and in the old-growth coastal forest, you can find some of the state’s largest Sitka spruces. This vast treasure is undoubtedly one of the most impressive coastal state parks in Oregon and a must on a list of things to do in Cannon Beach.
The park is popular with beachgoers, hikers, and surfers, with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. A 13-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail winds its way through the park, extending to the town of Manzanita. The two large coastal landmarks of Cape Falcon and Neahkahnie Mountain are also located within the park and offer some great hikes.
READ MORE: Your Guide to Oswald West State Park
5. Cape Falcon Hike (Our Fav Thing to Do Near Cannon Beach)
- Distance: 4.6 miles
- Type of Trail: Out and back
- Difficulty: Moderate
The Cape Falcon hike is undoubtedly one of the most scenic on the Oregon Coast and is a must when it comes to things to do in Cannon Beach. The cape sits in Oswald West State Park, and the trail begins at the northernmost end of the parking area, although really it can be accessed from anywhere in the park.
It is certainly an achievable hike at roughly 2 miles long one way, taking you at first through a coastal forest of Sitka spruce, with many glimpses of the Pacific Ocean through gaps in the trees.
The trail is well maintained, with boardwalks covering the muddy areas. It is tough to get lost if you seek out the view, which will stretch out before you over a protected marine reserve. Once you have taken it all in, you can turn around and come back the way you came.
If you want to continue the hike, once you reach the top of Cape Falcon, you can carry on north on a trail that takes you 6.5 miles to Arch Cape Creek.
6. Short Sand Beach
Another impressive beach in the area is Short Sand Beach, which is a hot spot for surfers. The beach lies in a sheltered cove, surrounded by thick forest and edged by volcanic basalt and sandstone cliffs.
Although hidden away in a cove, this beach is usually buzzing with surfers and boogie boarders. The cove helps protect it from some of the more heavy weather, and the waves are pretty consistent. The clean waves break on sandbars up and down the beach.
Even if surfing is not your thing, the beach is still a beautiful place to spend the day and a great thing to do near Cannon Beach. Go skimboarding, boogie boarding, fly a kite or go for a paddle. It can be reached by a short walk through the forest from Oswald West State Park’s main parking lot.
Walk down the trail, following the curves of Short Sand Creek through the forest before reaching a picnic area overlooking the beach. From the beach, if you are up for a bit of adventure, you can access the moderate hike to the end of Cape Falcon.
7. Neahkahnie Mountain Hike
- Distance: 2.7 miles
- Type of Trail: Out and back
- Difficulty: Moderate
The Neahkahnie Mountain Hike takes you up to the exposed summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. Towering at 1680 feet, it is one of the highest points on the west coast of the United States and is located in Oswald West State Park. The view from the peak out over the Pacific Ocean is stunning, especially on clear days.
There are a few different routes you can take to reach the mountain’s peak, depending on your ability. The south route, which I have included details for above, is best for those that enjoy an easier hike, as it is only 3-miles and has an 840-foot elevation gain.
The north Neahkahnie Mountain Hike covers 4-miles and 1240 feet of elevation gain, so it is a little more tricky than the first option. Another hike is the northern approach hike, which is the most difficult out of the three. It covers 9.6 miles and 2750 feet of elevation.
Whichever route you decide to take, the hike itself is beautiful, lined with wildflowers and passing through Sitka spruce forests, but it is the views from the peak that will take your breath away.
8. Devil’s Cauldron
The incredible Devil’s Cauldron is just a few minutes south and is well worth a visit when it comes to things to do in Cannon Beach.
The stunning cove is bordered by towering cliffs that jut down straight into the ocean, making for a pretty impressive sight. Standing at the overlook and watching the waves crash into the cliff is one of the best things to do in Cannon Beach.
The trail to the overlook is very short at just a quarter of a mile but is moderately steep, so be prepared for a bit of a climb. Alternatively, if you are up for a bit of a walk, start at the parking lot at the main section of the park (where you park for Short Sand Beach/Cape Falcon hike) and take the 3-mile round trip via the Elk Flats trail to the overlook.
9. Wildlife Viewing at Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is the place to head if you are a bird-watching enthusiast. Huge colonies of seabirds flock around the offshore rocks, and birds such as Tufted Puffins can be seen at Haystack Rock. Brown Pelicans skim the surf, and if you look up, Bald Eagles sail through the skies.
The range of ecosystems here, including beaches, rocky shores, woodlands, wetlands, and estuaries, means that the variety of birdlife is extensive. Ecola Creek is another hot spot for bird watching. Bird Rocks near Chapman Point at the north end of Cannon Beach often has the greatest concentration of Common Murres.
But it is not just the birds that call the area around Cannon Beach their home. Around 18,000 Gray Whales make their migration past the shore every spring and winter, which is one of the most magical things to view if you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time!
There is also a chance of spotting a few other species of whale off the coast at any point throughout the year, but the gray whale is by far the most common. Seals and sea lions can sometimes also be spotted from the beach or the viewpoints, and sometimes can even be seen on the beach itself.
People also head to the area to view the herds of Roosevelt Elk, which can often be seen emerging from the edges of the surrounding rainforest to graze in the coastal meadows. Elk can most frequently be seen either in the early mornings or in the late evenings.
10. Arcadia Beach Tide Pools
Explore the pools and discover cool, colorful marine life at Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site. Expect to find sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, mussels, limpets, and who knows what else.
The beach is a beautiful place to explore, with plenty of tide pools hidden within the rocks and sea caves. There are several incredible rock formations to be found and even a waterfall.
If you look carefully, you will still be able to see the ancient road that was blasted out of the rock to allow horses to get over the point and back.
The best tide pool experience is usually at extremely low tides; at this point, the base of the road is likely to be visible, and you should be able to see some sea life clinging to it.
Nearby Things To Do From Cannon Beach
11. Manzanita Town
Just south of Cannon Beach, you will find the cute little town of Manzanita. Take a stroll along the sand and enjoy the incredible views of Neahkahnie Mountain. The town is tiny, with just over 600 people, making it a true hidden gem.
Surrounded by huge coastal attractions, it remains a little off the radar, ideal if you are looking for a quieter escape on the Oregon Coast. The beach here is wide and long, and there are plenty of hiking opportunities, such as the 1-mile round trip to the beach in Oswald West State Park.
There are plenty of cute shops to browse, plus, the culinary scene is pretty special. The cinnamon rolls at the local bakery are a must-try, and there are a few great pubs to check out.
12. Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem Bay State Park is a beautiful place to visit if you have somehow run out of things to do at Cannon Beach. It has literally miles of beach to enjoy, a huge campsite, and even an airstrip.
The state park itself is located on a long sand spit, with Neahkahnie Mountain towering behind it. There are some great trails here, including the 1.8-miles Nehalem Bay Trail and the longer 5.2-mile Nehalem Spit Trail, taking you all the way down to the end of the spit.
If you have had enough hiking, there is a range of horseback riding excursions, which could be a great alternative way of viewing this part of the coast.
There is a boat ramp right on the bay, fishing, kayaking, and crabbing, and there is a bike trail that runs along the bay shore. It is also a good spot for beachcombing and wildlife watching, so keep your eyes peeled for elk, deer, seals, and plenty of birdlife.
This is also our best recommendation for a place to camp that’s near Cannon Beach!
READ MORE: Your Guide to Nehalem Bay State Park
13. Seaside Town
Exploring the town of Seaside shouldn’t be missed on any trip to Cannon Beach. The town is sometimes referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Oregon Coast.’ The town is not only historical, being the last stop of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but also has a beautiful beach, lots of shopping and eateries, and things to do.
If there is only one thing you do in Seaside, it should be to walk the Seaside Promenade. The 1.5-mile prom is the perfect place for a stroll, a morning jog, a bike ride, or a spot for people watching, dating all the way back to the 1920s. End your walk at the automobile turnaround that is a tribute to Lewis and Clark.
The town’s waterways provide scenic avenues for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats so that you can see the town from a different perspective.
Be sure to sample some of the delicious Seaside seafood, including arguably the best clam chowder in the world, and browse the three unique shopping districts in the town.
14. Saddle Mountain Hike
- Distance: 4.5 miles
- Type of Trail: Out and back
- Difficulty: Difficult
The Saddle Mountain Hike is a very popular hike located near Cannon Beach. It is a 4.5-mile round trip, with an 1800-foot elevation gain, so get ready to get your sweat on.
Start the hike from the campsite area near the parking area, following a paved trail, and before long, you will enter a stunning forest made up of red alder, followed by Douglas fir and Sitka spruce.
You will soon begin the harder part of the hike as you switchback up the hillside, past house-sized boulders. After a few more switchbacks, you will start to get glimpses of open views, which will help you remember why you started the hike in the first place.
Once you emerge from the cover of the trees, you will find yourself on an open, rocky slope, where you can see the spine of the mountain reaching up high above you. Continue until you reach the peak.
Once you reach the peak, you will be rewarded with mountain top views that reach from Mount Hood all the way to the Pacific Ocean. You may even be able to see Washington’s three stratovolcanoes in the distance.
Just to the south is the southern peak of Saddle Mountain, 16-feet lower than where you are standing. If you look towards the ocean, you should be able to spot Tillamook Head, Clatsop Spit, and Nehalem Bay.
RELATED: 17 Breathtaking Oregon Coast Hikes
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Where to Stay Near Cannon Beach
Below you’ll find some great spots to stay, but we have more suggestions in our article on the best hotels in Cannon Beach!
The Shell Cottage
This adorable dog-friendly cottage is in a quiet residential neighborhood within walking distance to the beach and town center. There is a full kitchen, WiFi, and a gas fireplace.
Cannon Beach Tree House
This cozy one-bedroom is nestled in amongst the trees and has ocean views. It is close to Cannon Beach and has a full kitchen, WiFi, and a balcony.
Cottage by the Sea
This cozy two-bedroom cottage is perfect for water lovers – it’s just two blocks away from the beach and s short walk from Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. It features a modern kitchen and a private deck with a barbecue.
La Bella Vita
This sweet vacation cottage has two bedrooms and is a short walk to the beach. There is a full kitchen, a large deck with an outdoor grill, and it is pet-friendly.
Oregon native and explorer at heart. Loves tackling expeditions around the world and drinking a good beer at the end of the day. PNW obsessed, VW nerd, and surf or snow riding fanatic.