They say late summer is the best time to visit the Oregon coast. If you are looking for one last shot of summer on the coast, and running is part of your ideal getaway, consider Manzanita. This small town halfway between Seaside and Tillamook just off the Oregon Coast Highway has lots to offer the non-running vacationer, with gorgeous scenery, nearby state parks, a fantastic beach, and great dining and shopping. It's also a great place to run.
The beach at Manzanita lives up to our dreams of what beach-running can be. It's hard-packed, flat, and rarely crowded, with calm seas to the west and views of Neahkanie Mountain to the north. So nice is this beach for running, the North County Recreation District holds a 5K/10K beach race on it every July. The beach is about six miles long, from the foot of the mountain to the breakwater at Nehalem Bay in the south. Just south of town the crowds vanish as you enter Nehalem Bay State Park.
Nehalem Bay State Park is connected to Manzanita by a bicycle path. Within the park, a narrow, two-mile paved loop winds among coastal forest and along the shore of Nehalem Bay. This paved trail was little used during a visit in July; horseback riders stick mainly to other trails in the park. Note: The path passes a small airstrip in the park. Fly-in camping is available for those of you with personal aircraft.
The real gem at Manzanita, from this runner's perspective, is Neahkanie Mountain, looming over Highway 101 north of town. The mountain sits in Oswald West State Park. Views of Manzanita and Nehalem Bay from the summit are stunning. In fall and spring, gaze out to sea and catch a glimpse of migrating whales.
Between mileposts 41 and 42 on Highway 101 you'll find auto access to the Neahkanie Mountain summit trail. From the parking area, the trail itself climbs about 900 feet in just under three miles of switchbacks. The trail is soft dirt with some exposed roots; trail shoes with good traction and a little protection for your feet work great. The final climb to the summit is really a scramble up some sharp rocks. If you aren't feeling surefooted, just take in the views from the trail below the outcropping.
For those of you staying in town who want to climb from sea level to the summit of Neahkanie Mountain (an ambitious but satisfying 1,680'), take Ocean Road/Beulah Reed Road north. Turn right to take the last street up the hillside before you reach Kahnie Loop Trail, and at the top of this private road (Blackberry Lane, I think), you'll find a gravel-and-railraod-tie staircase leading to the subdivision above. You'll emerge on Mariner's Trail. Turn right on Meadow Loop and follow it all the way to Highway 101. The road leading to the mountain summit trail takes off just south of your intersection with the highway. Just look to the right and you'll see the brown hiker sign.
When you've completed the run(s) of your choice, a recommended spot for a post-run snack is Bread and Ocean Cafe on Laneda Avenue in downtown Manzanita. They have great sandwiches and an outdoor seating area sheltered from the cool ocean breezes.