Post Overview: Best Things to Do at Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
It’s fair to assume that anyone with an instagram account has probably seen photos of the epic scenery that is Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor.
The high and steep cliffs, lush emerald pine forests, grassy headlands sprinkled with wildflowers, and colossal rock formations jutting up from the sea. The entire scene makes this part of the southern coast feel like a little land that’s been perfectly preserved, untouched by the outside world completely.
The only thing better than getting inspired by the beautiful photos is to visit the place for yourself. As such, I thought it’d be helpful to create a quick guide on the best things to do at Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor.
Let’s jump right in!
Visiting Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is snuggled between the coastal towns of Brookings and Gold Beach. To wander through this area is to be immersed in a feast for the senses.
Extravagant cliffs decorated with pines and wildflowers loom over the churning ocean, its rolling waves frequently interrupted by one outstanding natural feature after another.
This rapid succession of sea stacks, cove beaches, and 300 year old spruces intermingle to form a dazzling panoramic landscape that seems too pristine to be real.
But real it is! And boy are we lucky that this area, once inaccessible to travelers, has been reclaimed for all to enjoy.
History of Samuel H. Boardman
This 12-mile segment of coastline was lovingly preserved by its former superintendent, Samuel H Boardman. Boardman fought for over 25 long years to purchase plots of land in this area from private owners.
Recognizing the rare and unique beauty of the area, Boardman’s dream was to preserve these rugged cliffs so their wonder can be enjoyed by all for generations to come.
Portlanders know it can be a bit of a drive to get all the way down to the southern coast for the weekend (5 and a half hours, no less).
Because of the distance, many of the small towns along the southern coast tend to remain mysteries to those of us who live in the northern half of the state.
Don’t get me wrong. Anywhere you go along the Oregon coast will be time well spent, but the southern beaches feel so much more remote and seldom crowded.
The Scenic Corridor is situated on Highway 101 and has an ample smattering of viewpoints, picnic spots, and beach access along the way.
While the area isn’t a “park”, per se, it is a region specially designated because of the cluster of unique and wonderful natural features to see.
Opportunities for recreational activities can be found in many other areas along the Oregon coast, but Boardman is reserved primarily for enjoying the beauty of nature itself.
Best Things to Do Samuel H. Boardman
Below is a list of the main viewpoints within Samuel H Boardman State Park. You could technically walk between them all via the 18 mile long section of the Oregon Coast Trail.
But we won’t blame you for driving to each spot and using the time you saved not walking to take in the phenomenal scenery around you. After all, that’s what you’re here for, no?
Most of these stops have small parking lots and require very short walks on paved paths to reach the viewpoints. We’ve included a few options for longer hikes and beach access as well.
Whether you have specific spots in mind or intend to mosey along the highway pulling over at all of them, the signs are easy to see and parking areas clearly marked.
Note: the following viewpoints are listed in order if you’re traveling north to south down Highway 101.
The first viewpoint you’ll reach when visiting Samuel H Boardman driving from the north is Arch Rock. There’s plenty of parking available in the lot and picnic tables to set up if you’re already feeling peckish.
A short 0.3 mile loop leads you to your first stunning vista of this adventure: Arch Rock viewpoint.
Standing on a cliff overlooking the sea provides an excellent vantage point for spotting whales as they breach offshore, or simply soaking up the stunning ocean views.
Not so much a secret anymore, but this relatively low-traffic beach sure can feel like one. Take the 1.6 mile trek down to the shore through deep emerald spruce and pine forest.
There are a few intersecting trails you can take here, all of which are unmarked, so arriving on the sand takes a bit more effort than most of the other viewpoints along this journey. Just follow the ocean and you’ll make it eventually!
Seriously though, we know it can be intimidating to navigate trails, but these paths either go straight to the coast or back to the parking lot–rest assured! Be sure to begin the trail at the Thunder Cove parking area. We think that’s a much easier start point because it’s more clearly marked and less steep of a hike.
No matter which way you take down you’ll get to peek at the ocean over gently sloping cliff sides bursting with colorful grasses (and wildflowers in late spring and early summer!)
We recommend reaching China Beach from the North Island viewpoint (signs for it are marked along highway 101). Park here and simply enjoy the view, or continue down a 0.6 mile footpath down to the beach–which we think is absolutely worth the trek!
China Beach is a long, flat expanse of sand that lies in sharp contrast to the smaller and more rugged coves you’ll typically find in the Boardman Corridor.
This means plenty of space to roam and relax among the gentle waves while seeing few–if any–other visitors. This is also one of the least-frequented beaches in the area which makes it perfect for finding neat driftwood, rock, and shell treasures.
There are also numerous jagged sea stacks here that can be approached at low tide, as well as a few tide pools here and there. Hike back up the way you came to return to the parking lot.
Thomas Creek Bridge
If you can peel your eyes away from the magnificent too-good-to-be-true scenery surrounding you, check out the Thomas Creek Bridge on your journey south through Boardman.
This bridge is the tallest in the entire state of Oregon! While not quite as natural (or ancient) as the rock arches and sculpted cliffs, the 375 foot tall bridge is a super neat feat of modern engineering.
Hands down the most famous spot in the area, Natural Bridges is the viewpoint which photographers (and travelers!) venture to from far and wide. Folks flock here to get a good look at the alluring rock formations that rise from below the cliffs, forming interesting arches and pillars.
A short walkway leads you to a wooden platform that affords visitors a staggering glimpse of what all the fuss has been about! Two monumental rock arches stand out from the jagged cove, their surface glowing yellow and red as they curve over the sea.
Natural Bridges is one of the features that inspired Sam Boardman to spend most of his career fiercely advocating for this area, and gosh with a view like this, who could blame him?
Bonus: for a different perspective of the Natural Bridges, book a tour to see it by Kayak! Local companies like South Coast Tours offer beginner-friendly paddles out to the coves.
Further Reading: 10+ Jaw-Dropping Hikes at the Oregon Coast
Tucked away in the Indian Sands area of the corridor lies one of our all-time favorite coastal phenomena: sand dunes!
These incredible testaments to the power of wind and erosion might seem like boring piles of sand, but they add a drama to the coastline that is unmatched (as if the Oregon coast needed any more dramatic views!).
Truly, the dunes are a treat for the eye and are also an important habitat for many of our favorite wildlife species like elk, martens, owls, and eagles. As cool as we nature nerds think dunes are, they can be difficult to hike on.
A 1 mile hike across the sand will totally count as your leg day for the week, but what gym offers a gorgeous beach to relax on after your workout?
A serene beach is your prize at the end of this proverbial (and sand-covered) rainbow. Notably, Indian Sands seems to be the least visited area of the Boardman corridor, so if peace and quiet is what you’re after this is likely your best bet.
Whaleshead rock, a giant basalt formation that resembles a whale breaching the waves, is the most notable feature at this viewpoint.
The rock is surrounded by smaller sea stacks, upon which waves ceaselessly crash. This area offers travelers picnic tables and vaulted toilets, which makes for the perfect place to stop and stay a while!
A 1 mile long beach leaves plenty of room for everyone to spread out even during the busier summer season. Take a short path down to the beach and unwind.
If you’d like to keep moving, there’s a 3 mile loop hike here that takes you through the misty, salty-aired woods and out to an overlook of Whaleshead rock.
This viewpoint (as well as the next on our list) is a bit of a “choose your own adventure. Stop here to enjoy the vista at a small memorial in honor of Sam Boardman himself, or take one of many trails leading down to various secluded coves and beaches.
Whichever choice you make you’re bound to see giant pines, plenty more sea stacks, and hear the ever-present roar of the ocean as you meander these trails. One trail in particular stretches 4 miles south and leads hikers to the next stop: Cape Ferrello.
Whether you arrive by car or by foot via the House Rock Viewpoint trail (or Lone Ranch Creek, mentioned below), Cape Ferrelo is just as gorgeous as all of the other places we’ve been along the Corridor so far.
If you’re arriving by car, an easy 1 mile loop takes you through hedges of salal and Sitka spruce before spitting you out on a lovely and rugged beach. Along this trail you’ll travel through a “tunnel” formed by thickly-growing spruces which can feel extra mysterious on a foggy day.
Once out among the bluffs you can get amazing views of the wide open ocean as well as some sea stacks dotted at the feet of the cliffs you just hiked upon.
If you plan your visit in spring, a dazzling display of colorful wildflowers blanket the headland and surrounding hillsides and meadows–a sight not to be missed!
After getting your fill of the cape’s phenomenal array of sights, sounds, and smells, hug the hillside to return to the tree-lined trail and make your way back to the parking area.
Lone Ranch Beach
No list of the best things to do at Samuel H. Boardman is complete without mentioning Lone Ranch Beach.
Lone Ranch Beach marks the southernmost point of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, and boy does it deliver!
A small parking area offers a grassy expanse with picnic tables and fire rings, making this a great place to land for a picnic dinner at the end of a long and adventurous day.
Hopefully you have time to do a lot more than eat though, especially after making it this far down the Corridor! Lone Ranch has just as many beautiful ocean panoramas, dramatic sea stacks, and sensational views of rolling daffodil-covered hillsides as the rest of the area.
From the viewpoint here you’ll be able to look south and see some of the headlands of California! To reach the crescent-shaped beach, take a short paved footpath down to the sand.
Here you’ll discover some wonderful little tide pools exposed during low tide, and even get to walk right up to some of the closer sea stacks.
Oregon Coast Trial
One of my dreams in life is to hike the length of the Oregon Coast Trail, a footpath that spans over 360 miles down the length of Oregon.
Taking on that long of a trek is likely many years away for me still, but seeing bits and pieces of it is possible in the meantime! 18 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail can be hiked here in Boardman alone.
We mentioned you can walk this trail to access all of the viewpoints in the scenic corridor, but even if you don’t want to undertake the entire trail, hiking it for a few miles is totally worth the effort while you’re in the area.
Many of the viewpoints we listed above either use sections of the OCT as the primary footpath for beach and viewpoint access, or you can take other trails that intersect with this infamous path along the way.
Tips for Visiting Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
We recommend setting aside at least one full day to explore the park, but two or three days is ideal. There are so many viewpoints, natural features, and interesting sights in the surrounding area that you’ll definitely keep busy longer than expected.
Admission to Boardman is open for day use year-round and admission is free. How cool is that?! We recommend visiting in spring, summer, and fall for the best chance of sunny skies.
While the southern coast is said to be a little sunnier than the rest of the Oregon coast, we can’t make any promises. Come prepared with your rain jacket and waterproof hiking boots just in case the clouds conjure up a downpour or two. Rain or shine, rest assured that as long as you’re dressed appropriately, the park will be exciting enough to keep weather woes at bay.
There is no camping within the scenic corridor, but there are plenty of lodging options just minutes away. Camp at Harris Beach State Park in one of their developed campsites, which can be reserved ahead of time online (or first come first serve upon your arrival). Brooking has numerous hotel options and small sites for RV parking as needed.
Check the tides! Many of the most incredible coves here can easily be swallowed by the sea at high tide. Refer to online tide charts a day or two before your trip to see when the best times to head down to the shore will be.
Best Things to Do Sam Boardman Scenic Corridor
In sum, here’s a list of fun things to do at Sam Boardman Scenic Corridor, hope you enjoyed.
- Arch Rock
- Secret Beach
- China Beach
- Thomas Creek Bridge
- Natural Bridges
- Indian Sands
- Whaleshead Beach
- House Rock
- Cape Ferello
- Lone Ranch Beach
- Oregon Coast Trial
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