Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sisters Rocks

Oregon coast south of Sisters Rocks
1 mile round trip, 250 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Paved road to trailhead, no entrance fee required

Sisters Rocks is a hidden gem of the Oregon Coast, a state park featuring awesome coastal scenery that most tourists zoom past. Although it's directly off of US 101, at the time of writing there was no signage for the park and no formal parking area, meaning that only visitors on the lookout for this spot would typically stop here. Sisters Rocks is a set of two rocky headlands and an associated sea stack; an abandoned road serves as a hiking path down to these massive rocks, which deliver jaw-dropping views of the coast and ends at a thundering sea cave. This is one of the better kept secrets of the southern Oregon Coast and an excellent stop if driving US 101 in this area.

I hiked Sisters Rocks during a road trip from California to Seattle with Anna. From Brookings, Oregon- the closest large town- take US 101 north for 42 miles. At this point, the coastal view will be dominated by two massive rocks. As the highway passes by the isthumus connecting the rocks to the mainland, the road will pass through a road cut; look for an unmarked gravel pulloff with limited parking immediately past the road cut. This is the trailhead (42.5958, -124.3990); there's no bathroom, no picnic table, and no physical indication that you're at the right place.

From the trailhead, we followed the abandoned gravel road past a gate and a sign indicating that we were in Sisters Rocks State Park. The road was quite eroded in spots as we followed it along the backbone of the ridge on the isthumus down towards the rocks themselves. We had excellent views here of the three rocks, the largest of which was just barely connected to the mainland by a narrow beach.

Sisters Rocks
As we descended, excellent views of the Oregon Coast began opening up to both the north and the south. The view to the north was dominated by Humbug Mountain, the tallest point directly on the Oregon Coast, while the southern view was littered with a variety of interestingly shaped sea stacks, one of which resembled a teapot or a tortoise. 

Rocky beach on the south side of Sisters Rocks
The trail dropped to a saddle between the mainland and the first of the three Sisters Rocks; a branch in the former road led down to a rocky beach on the bay to the south of here. As there were already a few parties enjoying the beach, we opted to follow the road down to the north side of the ridge, which dropped to a rocky beach that connected the largest of the Sisters Rocks with the mainland. The wind coming out of the north was extremely strong here, which pushed dramatic waves onto the beach.

Humbug Mountain and the Oregon coast north of Sisters Rocks
Crossing the rocky beach, a path led slightly uphill through rocky terrain to a view of a massive sea cave carved into the largest of the Sisters Rocks. The cave- really more of a tunnel- connected out to the open ocean, so every ten seconds a wave would rush into the cave and crash against the rocks at the cave's mouth with a thunderous echo. It was a dark, forboding, and enchanting scene.

Sea cave carved into Sisters Rocks
After staring in wonder at the sea cave, the strong wind forced us back and we retreated uphill to the trailhead.

This is a short but sweet and overlooked hike, an easy hike directly off of US 101 that accesses the wild scenery for which the Oregon Coast is famous. I highly recommend this hike to anyone traveling this stretch of coast- just make sure that you remember where to turn off to find this unsigned gem.

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