Ecola State Park (tel. 800/551-6949 or 503/436-2844; www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks), just north of the town of Cannon Beach, marks the southernmost point that Lewis and Clark explored on the Oregon coast. The park offers the area's most breathtaking vantage point from which to soak up the view of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock, and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The park also has several picnic areas perched on bluffs high above the crashing waves and a trail that leads 6 miles over Tillamook Head to Seaside. The 1-mile stretch of trail between the main bluff-top picnic area and Indian beach is particularly rewarding, passing through old-growth forests and offering good views of the ocean and beaches far below. There's also the 2.5-mile Clatsop Loop Trail, which leads through dense forest to a viewpoint high on Tillamook Head. The day-use fee is $3 per vehicle.
Kite flying and beachcombing are the most popular Cannon Beach pastimes. But you can also enjoy the beach in a variety of other ways, too. Between mid-May and Labor Day, guided horseback rides to Cove Beach and Haystack Rock are offered by Sea Ranch Stables, 415 Fir St. (tel. 503/436-2815; www.cannon-beach.net/searanch), which is at the north entrance to Cannon Beach. Rides cost $65 to $130.
Another great way to see the beach is from a funcycle, a three-wheeled beach cycle. These cycles enable you to ride up and down the beach at low tide. Funcycles can be rented from Mike's Bike Shop, 248 N. Spruce St. (tel. 800/492-1266 or 503/436-1266; www.mikesbike.com), for $12 for an hour and 15 minutes. Mountain bikes and road bikes are also available for rent from Mike's.
Three miles south of town is Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site, one of the prettiest little beaches on the north coast; and another mile farther south you'll find Hug Point State Recreation Site, which has picnic tables, a sheltered beach, and the remains of an old road that was cut into the rock face of this headland. Oswald West State Park, 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, is one of my favorites of all the parks on the Oregon coast. A short trail leads to a driftwood-strewn cobblestone beach on a small cove. Headlands on either side of the cove can be reached by hiking trails that offer splendid views. The waves here are popular with surfers, and there's a walk-in campground.
If you want to try riding the wild (and very cold) surf, you can rent a surfboard and wetsuit from Cannon Beach Surf, 1088 S. Hemlock St. (tel. 503/436-0475; www.cannonbeachsurf.com).