Ecola State Park is just 2 miles north of Cannon Beach on the beautiful Oregon Coast. It's a quiet and restorative recreational area overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.
Ecola State Park is part of the 9-mile stretch of Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock-forested coastline extending from Cannon Beach, north to the town of Seaside. The park covers 1,023 acres.
Hikers and photographers are the most frequent visitors because of the extensive trails within the park, and the panoramic overlook on the southern and western edges.
Ellen Hayes, 49, is a writer from Seaside OR. She said, "I love coming down here to Ecola Park, especially in the late Fall and Spring when it is not so crowded. It completely revitalizes my spirit to look out over the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and feel the cool wind and warm sun on my face.
Up here on the overlook, are several picnic tables. I can bring a thermos of hot green tea, and generate lines to poems, or ideas for future magazine articles.
This place is so peaceful, even though the Pacific Ocean is violent and the Oregon coastline is rugged. It's like a spiritual dichotomy that confounds and fascinates me.
The park is also an integral part of my personal fitness plan. I hike for at least an hour on the steep trails twice a week. The air is fresh, and slightly damp, which is so good for women's skin.
Visiting Ecola State Park awakens new parts of me and makes my mornings more meaningful. I have a small leather backpack that I carry a dotted-line journal in, with a few special pens. The healing atmosphere of the park, combined with personalized writing tools, is certainly inspirational."
The park is just a few miles north of Cannon Beach. There are well-marked signs along Highway 101 North to exit.
Also, there are plenty of shops in the town of Cannon Beach with free maps showing you how to get to Ecola State Park by following Hemlock Street to the north.
You'll find a pay station a few hundred yards from the entrance sign. Day fees are pretty nominal.
Most of the time there is someone to take your money, however, the Honor System is also in vogue.
A little farther up the road, a sign will direct you to either the Overview of beautiful Cannon Beach or over to Indian Beach.
The view south, toward the Haystack Rock and the town of Cannon Beach is very meditative. It's understandable why so many people seek this serenity to reconnect with what is simple and beautiful.
Joanna Frost (53) a writer from Timber OR, said, "Time is expiring even as you read this. We can make our days count when we take a few moments to drink in Nature's beauty. It won't stop the countdown ticker from moving, but it will give us more Life."
This gnarly old tree has weathered much heat, wind, and icy Pacific storms.
The forest is full of wonderful subjects, especially during sunrise.
Ed Halbert (58) is a photographer from Three Sisters OR. He said, "The combination of the sunrise and these forest roads in Ecola State Park can make almost anyone look like a National Geographic photographer to their friends."
Looking west, out into the Pacific Ocean from the overlook at Ecola Park.
Looking south toward Haystack Rock never gets old, no matter how many times you take it all in.
John Trimble, a photographer from Brookings OR, said: "Trying to get a picture of the iconic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is pretty much a frustrating experience.
First, it's a long ways out there. You're not going to get any kind of shot with an iPhone.
Secondly, it's real foggy out there on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. You have to have almost perfect conditions of no fog, and early morning sun highlighting the structure.
That might only happen a couple of times each year. You've got to get here early. Get set up. Then wait, hope and maybe pray.
Third, bring a long zoom lens, the longest you can afford to buy or borrow, and get set-up on a tripod. There's just no way you can get a crisp shot with hand-held stabilization. You'll shake way to much.
You don't want to wait 8 months for a perfect shot, then ruin it because you cannot hold the giant lens steady.
Fourth, sadly, your shot will like almost a thousand others you see on Instagram. There's only a narrow little alley to shoot, so you are really squeezed.
Plus, you don't want to hog the spot. Get your shots, then move your equipment so others can get theirs. Yes, they got there late, but you know how you'd feel if someone was selfishly taking their sweet time"
Jillian Harris (27) is a writer from Sisters Oregon. She said, "I love checking out Tillamook Rock Lighthouse every time I come to this park.
The best thing you can do is get a compact, but powerful set of binoculars. They are far less cumbersome than trying to navigate with a big telephoto lens. Even on a tripod, you have to be aware of how you're handing something that can get out of balance quickly.
Binoculars allow you to take your time, study the lighting, and also use them to view Cannon Beach to the south. They are also valuable during Gray Whale migration season.
They are a worthwhile investment. I just keep them in my Jeep."
The park has over 10 miles of trails through the forest. Some are only a footprint wide. Others, you can walk two-abreast.
Sally Edwards (49) from Tillamook, said, "I've been coming up here for 10 years to hike this forest. It's so beautiful, and it smells so clean.
One thing I would recommend is getting a good set of hiking poles. They will save you from taking some bad spills on the hard rocks and exposed roots. Even the Alpha Male/macho type guys use these.
I've seen a couple of serious injuries, out here, when people stumble. You can break a wrist or an arm real quickly.
There is nothing sissy about using hiking sticks to maintain your balance."
Ecola State Park has 5 designated hiking trails. Included are view trails and dog leash trails.
They range from about 2.2 miles, to almost 10 miles. The elevation can change from about 52' to 1158'.
Steven Edwards (43) who runs a hiking blog as his home business, said, "In addition to hiking sticks, I wear a hiking boot with the most severe tread I can find. This is the Pacific Northwest, so a lot of the time, rocks and large tree trunks are wet.
Having an aggressive tread provides more safety. You do not want to slip violently on a rock or giant tree trunk and sustain a serious injury.
I'll admit the more rugged boots are not real colorful or stylish, but I'm making a trade-off to stay away from a bad injury"
The park has some paved trails that lead down to the beach. Some of these are pretty rough, and the surfaces very uneven. I do NOT recommend trying to run on these.
Please observe restrictions to trails. Sometimes, there has been damage to the trails that needs to be repaired, other times, there are dangerous situations (fallen trees, large animal sightings, etc.)
One of the nicest features at the park are several single benches to look out over Cannon Beach, to the south.
Joe and Eva Mainten, are both in their early 60's. They retired after 35+ years of teaching. Now, they fund their travel up and down the Pacific Northwest Coast with their own online business.
Eva said, "We live in Manzanita, so it's only about a 30-minute drive up here to Ecola Park. We have been coming here several times a month since we retired two years ago.
We like to come in the mornings, when it's very cool, but the sun is warming Cannon Beach. We love sitting on this bench and holding hands. We are both so thankful for our health and our financial situation that allows us to travel all up and down the coast.
We like to get to the parking lot early, maybe a little after 6:00am when the park opens, then take brisk walks on these hilly roads. There is no traffic, that early, so we can walk side-by-side, and kind of nurture each other.
We use visits up here as off-days from our normal fitness days. We walk for about 45 minutes, then sip some hot green tea on this old bench.
Just sitting here, overlooking the ocean and the beach helps us recenter ourselves. It helps us see that our capacity for stillness is just as important as our capacity for movement.
It's truly revitalizing. It's hard to leave."
Said Joe, "We started coming to Ecola State Park because it's so close, and it gives us a great change of pace from our city park in Manzanita.
I'm always looking forward to seeing wildlife. We've seen Bald Eagles, Gray Whale migrations, and a herd of Roosevelt Elk that live somewhere in here.
Seeing the blue hues during sunrise is just a tremendous experience. I really cannot pout it into words. Eva would do better at that than me. I can talk better on more everyday, practical things.
We love traveling all over the Oregon Coast, going to all of these different city and state parks.
We don't spend a great deal of money because we stay in AirBnB places. They run about half of one of these pricey resorts in the area, plus we can cook our own food.
Through Eva, I've definitely become more spiritual. She's always been more accepting and forgiving than me. I know it's what made her such a great mother and teacher. I've made huge changes these last few years. I just wish I had made them decades earlier. I would have been a much better father and teacher."
There is a covered area at the overlook viewpoint containing several picnic tables. The structure also has a large fireplace (great on cold weather days!), however, you will need to bring our own wood.
Behind the structure is a large charcoal grill (again, you will have to bring your own charcoal, starter fluid, etc) and a spigot for fresh water.
Very clean and well-maintained restrooms are at the bottom of some vintage rustic steps.
Here is the beautiful view leading back up to the covered picnic area. Mornings are very pretty at Ecola State Park.
The roads in Ecola State Park are hilly, and a bit narrow. They are a great place to run, but you must get to the park early, otherwise it is too dangerous.
The roads are narrow, so cars passing in the opposite directions have to be real vigilant about the level of their mirrors. Also, drivers in the late afternoon must content with blinding sun streaking through the trees.
When I come up here to walk, or do some intense hill intervals, I make sure I get started by 7:15am, at the latest. I've started at past 8:30am, before, but several cars passed me. It was a little scary.
Early is better.
Jake said, "The road here in Ecola State Park is nothing but hills and turns. It doesn't matter what direction you are going...heading into the park, or heading out of the park.
Like Cade said, I follow the Anabolic Running program, so I do interval work on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Mostly, my hill sprints cover only about 40 meters.
I usually do 8-10 of those with a rolling start. I rest about 2 minutes in between so that I can really push it on one of the days.
Somedays, I'll run pretty hard for about a minute (probably a little over 200 meters on these hills), but I don't do more than about 6 of those. They tax you way too much if you're also doing CrossFit 2-3 times per week."
Ana Ling is a 27-year old entrepreneur who lives in Nehalem OR.
She said, "I come up here to Ecola Park every two weeks. I run easily, more like recovery running, on these winding hilly roads.
It'so beautiful and cool inside the forest. To me, it is also healing. I only run for about 20 minutes, which is a little over a mile on these steep hills, then I do Yoga/balancing postures on uneven surfaces.
It forces me to focus, turning static poses into almost dynamic balance situations. Logs and large rocks force me to fully concentrate."
"When I run with my friend, Maya, like I'm doing today, she'll have us do push-ups and sit-ups to increase our vibratory connection with the Earth.
It's all more of a spiritual experience here in Ecola State Park, rather than a workout. This is not a hard day, it's one of recovery...both for our bodies, and our spirits.
I just love coming here, knowing I'm going to refresh my soul, and reground my spirit. Our motto is 'We must recharge ourselves as much as we recharge our phones!"
"I want to caution everyone who decides to run in Ecola State Park that you must get here very early. You must run on the left side of these narrow roads so you can easily see oncoming traffic.
This is a very beautiful place to engage in mindful fitness, but the keyword is mindful. Know what's going on at all times. It's too easy to get lost in the mild weather and the beauty of the forest."
Any trip to Haystack Rock or Cannon Beach should include some time in beautiful, quiet Ecola State Park.