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Pistol River, Cape Sebastian pack scenic punch along U.S. 101

August 1, 2015

The Oregon section of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway stretches 363 miles, from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south.

The highway has a reputation for being one of the most scenic drives in America, even though the ocean is in view from U.S. 101 only a small amount of the time. Often you have to drive side routes (Three Capes in Tillamook County, or Cape Arago Highway and Beach Loop Drive in Coos County) to see much of the ocean. Or you can hike.

One place the Pacific hits you straight in the eyeballs is driving south off Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, five miles south of Gold Beach, past Myers Creek Beach and thePistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. Photos of this highway have made many an automotive-themed calendar or atlas.

The Pistol River area is frequently very windy, making this a place for windsurfers to brave ocean conditions in Oregon. The beach is easy to reach from signed parking areas at Myers Creek or Pistol River, but there is more to explore.

At the south end of this highway section, just before U.S. 101 climbs inland, look for a gravel pullout across from the sign noting a turn inland to Pistol River and Carpenterville. This wide spot on the road's west shoulder, at milepost 339.7, has a horse trail to reach the beach.

Follow the path as it winds south through the dunes, then hike south along the beach. The sand ends at Crook Point, which is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is closed to public entry. But the hike through the Pistol River dunes and along the beach is one of the wilder experiences on the Oregon coast.

Terry Richard
trichard@oregonian.com
503-221-8222; @trichardpdx

See the slideshow on OregonLive »