Crescent Beach – Cannon Beach, Oregon - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Crescent Beach

This gorgeous beach hides behind two headlands in Oregon's Ecola State Park. 

Hidden behind two regal viewing points, Crescent Beach offers a private, misty retreat into prehistory in the heart of Oregon’s bustling Ecola State Park. More than half a million people will visit the park each year, but most won’t hike down to this cloaked pinch of coastline teeming with wildlife and obscure trivia.

Walking down the Crescent Beach Trail, you’ll brush up against stately alders, spiky sword ferns, and beaming red elderberries. Look closely, and you might even spot some elk sauntering through the thicket. The beach is itself home to an impressive ensemble including seals and sea lions, and even gray and orca whales, though sighting chances vary by season.

Peaceful as the beach is, echoes of some surprisingly mercenary and even morbid history still bounce off the rocks. Flanking Crescent Beach to the south, Chapman Point would have been developed into a dance hall had 17-year-old preservationist John Yeon not bought the land in 1927. The 1881 Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, meanwhile, looms off to the north and just out at sea. “Terrible Tilly” was last in use, from 1980 to 1999, as a columbarium for cremated remains.

A few loose ashes notwithstanding, Crescent Beach is a meditative haven: a shady, verdant shoreline where the clouds seem to hum just a little closer to the ground and the rocks seem to slouch, relaxed, into the water. You can find it a little bit more than a mile from the park’s parking lot—you just have to know it’s there.

Know Before You Go

While Crescent Beach remains accessible, trails to Ecola Point itself are permanently closed.