About Crescent Beach Waterfall
The Crescent Beach Waterfall was actually a waterfall that I was well aware of ever since we first visited Ecola State Park back in early April 2009.
Back then, we noticed a waterfall spilling onto the beach, but we wondered if there was a trail that would actually let us go down there to truly experience it.
We ultimately had to wait 12 years before that opportunity finally presented itself.
And as you can tell from this write-up, there is indeed such a trail.
It turned out that the Crescent Beach Waterfall actually has a hidden upper tier (so it’s taller than it appears in the photos on this page), but I’d argue that it’s the pristine scenery of Crescent Beach itself that made this experience.
Indeed, not only did we get to enjoy vistas of the long stretch of wet sand closed in by rock stacks (many of which have sea arches), but there were few people on the trail on the day we did this hike in early April 2021.
Maybe the on-and-off pockets of rain had something to do with keeping most visitors away from doing this adventure, but it ended up being one of the magical highlights of that Spring Break Trip.
Hiking The Crescent Beach Trail – Ecola Point & The Start Of The Hike
In order to earn our Crescent Beach and Crescent Beach Waterfall experience, we had to go on a 4-mile round-trip hike (according to my GPS logs).
It started from the day use parking lot for Ecola Point (see directions below), where we paid $5 for a pay-and-display ticket.
From this parking lot, we had the option of walking towards the viewpoints immediately downhill towards Ecola Point from the parking lot, or we could head towards the restroom area where the Crescent Beach Trail started.
During our visit in early April 2021, there were numerous closure signs warning of active landslides so the only vista that was worth our while was the one looking back over to Crescent Beach, where we could see the target waterfall.
Anyways, at the start of the trail, there was a sign warning that only experienced hikers should attempt this trail.
For reasons that will be clear later on in this write-up, it became apparent why.
The trail then ascended steps as I climbed back up to the access road that we took to get into Ecola State Park.
We then briefly followed this road until signs pointed for us to go back down below the road and onto a narrower and more lush coastal forest at roughly 0.3-mile from the start.
Hiking The Crescent Beach Trail – A Detour, Fallen Trees, and Muddy Areas
Shortly after leaving the access road, we encountered a fork where the authorities appeared to try to steer hikers away from the path on the right.
Just out of curiosity, we went ahead and took the path on the right instead of the pink-ribboned path on the left.
That path on the right descended towards openings in the forest revealing more of Crescent Beach below, and it was quite the scenic route.
However, shortly after getting past the coastal vistas along this path, we then encountered a series of large fallen trees, and that’s when we realized why the authorities made the detour in the first place.
By the way, the pink-ribbon-lined detour bypassing the scenic route wasn’t immune to fallen trees either as we had encountered at least one that we had to climb over (we know because we took this way on the way back to the trailhead).
At nearly 0.35 mile from the start of this scenic path, the two paths then merged, and we proceeded along a more conventional forested route surrounded by moss-covered trees and lots of ferns on the forest floor.
For almost the next mile, the trail was fairly straightforward to follow, but it had its share of skirting around very muddy patches (some of which had attractive flowers blooming in the middle of them) and some slippery gullies.
Because it was raining on and off during our early April 2021 visit, we appreciated the fairly extensive forest cover which sheltered us from the weather for the most part.
Eventually, the Crescent Beach Trail reached a signed junction where going right led down to Crescent Beach while going left would lead towards Cannon Beach.
While I was aware that it was possible to walk to Crescent Beach from Cannon Beach, I’d imagine that was the trail that would have taken us here had we started from there.
Hiking The Crescent Beach Trail – The Final Descent
Keeping right at the signed trail junction, the trail then began its moderately steep descent, which the trailhead signage had warned about.
What made this part of the trail tricky was that the footing on the narrow trail was quite slippery even with the proper hiking boots on, and this is in the presence of sloping dropoffs.
The best advice that I can give on this stretch (especially if you’re not using trekking poles) is to lean forward and use the downward momentum to your advantage.
If you lean too far back, you’ll likely slip and fall (kind of similar to the mentality you need when you’re learning how to ski).
After getting through this 0.3-mile stretch, the worst part was over, and then came the final descent on steps where the last flight onto the rocks was missing.
Fortunately, we were able to scramble down from the opposite side of the end of the steps onto the rocks, and then we were finally onto Crescent Beach.
Exploring Crescent Beach
At this point, we kept to our right (going north) along Crescent Beach for the next 0.2-mile to finally get to the base of the Crescent Beach Waterfall.
This waterfall flowed on the aptly-named Waterfall Creek, but I suspect that its fairly weak flow suggested that it was seasonal.
On the final approach to the waterfall, that was when we noticed a hidden upper tier that faced away from the vistas that faced south.
However, we couldn’t photograph both of these twisting tiers together in one go so it appeared quite a bit smaller than it really was.
Nevertheless, we pretty much spent a good deal of time at this waterfall, which we had to ourselves during our visit.
I did notice one other person who kept walking further north on Crescent Beach, and perhaps he pursued alcoves and caves that I thought I saw in the distance.
In any case, after having our fill of the Crescent Beach Waterfall, we then pursued the far southern end of the beach near Chapman Point and the Bird Rocks because each of the formations here featured sea arches.
Along the way, we noticed there was a separate trail and even thinner cascade as well as crabs, birds, lots of driftwood, and even sea shells (hinting at how pristine this beach was).
After having our fill of Crescent Beach, we then returned the way we came, which ultimately took us over 3 hours, but a solid hour was spent just enjoying being almost alone on the beach.
The Crescent Beach Waterfall resides in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach in Clatsop County, Oregon. It is administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
The Crescent Beach Waterfall resides in Ecola State Park almost immediately nouth of Cannon Beach.
The parking for the trailhead was at the one for Ecola Point (though that viewpoint has since been taken down due to an active landslide).
From Hemlock Street through the main drag in Cannon Beach, we took this street to its far north as it made a series of turns onto 3rd Street and Spruce Street, and eventually onto Elm Street.
Shortly after the bridge crossing Ecola Creek, we then followed the sign, which had us turn left onto 5th Street.
After about 0.1-mile, we then kept right to go onto Ecola Park Road, and we followed this road for about 1.6 miles to the turnoff for Ecola Point on the left.
The day use parking area was at the end of this spur, and the Crescent Beach Trailhead was between the pay-and-display dispenser and the restroom facility.
For some geographical context, Cannon Beach was about 6 miles (less than 15 minutes drive) north of Arch Cape, 9 miles (15 minutes drive) south of Seaside, 16 miles (less than 30 minutes drive) north of Nehalem, 40 miles (an hour drive) north of Tillamook, 85 miles (over 90 minutes drive) west of Portland, and 158 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) north of Florence.
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