A fascinating piece of Coast Guard history is captured at Port Orford Heads State Park. When open, the Lifeboat Station Museum offers free tours (donations accepted). The historic two-story building with narrow, steep stairs was less enticing than the forested trails on the beautiful, sunny day of my visit though, so I cannot elaborate on it. I am grateful for the brave men and women of the past and present who have dedicated themselves to coastal safety!
While both educational and beautiful, this state park is difficult to navigate for those with limited mobility. If you have restricted time in Port Orford, low physical energy, or an injury to be careful of, I would instead recommend Battle Rock City Park or the day use area of Humbug Mountain State Park.
Zig and then zag up a moderately challenging slope to reach an outdoor exhibit of the unsinkable lifeboat. Nearby picnic tables allow lunching in the large grassy area, skirted by trees which create a nice block from the Port Orford winds.
Port Orford Heads State Park contains a network of hiking trails branching off from the central area and skirting the tree-topped headlands. Unfortunately, even those with suitable terrain have long stretches with no spots to rest, so do not meet the criteria for a 100 Steps destination. Below are some notes on a few, so you can determine if they may be an option for you.
Cove trail, .3 mile – I ventured on to this trail hoping I would find one of two things: benches along the way that allowed breaking up the walk into shorter legs, or a spectacular ocean view from these headlands before actually reaching the cove. The path is dirt and soon started to decline with terrain that was a risk for unstable footing. My husband scouted ahead and found no benches or views within a reasonable number of steps. It is worth pointing out, though, that not far from the trail head sign and while the terrain is still level dirt, there is a tree with a trunk of enormous girth. I’ve read there are Sitka spruce in the area, so I believe this in one. It was very impressive and worth a peek.
Tower trail, .25 mile – This nicely paved trail offers shade and speckled sunlight as it meanders through the trees. Due to its charm and good terrain, I optimistically set out looking for suitable resting spots or an ocean view within a reasonable step count. I walked 450 steps in and found no seating options, though. I turned around at the point where I could glimpse a bit of ocean over the bushes ahead, and the trail had started to descend. I did not reach the tower or a good ocean viewpoint.
Headland trail, .5 mile – I was past my limit on walking at this point, and based on the trail length and my experiences with the two trails described above, I chose not attempt this trail.
Pete, a 100 Steps visitor, contributed this helpful information regarding the Cove and Tower trails:
“They both end at the same spot, the location of the USCG watch tower which is no longer there, and together make a nice loop. There is a wonderful ocean view and a bench where the two trails meet. Even though there are no benches along the paved (original walkway from the 1930s) .3 mile tower trail, there are two ocean overlooks with benches along the .4 mile Nellies Cove trail.”
After receiving this comment, I further researched Nellies Cove overlook. I found this nice write-up from Waymarking. And if you look at the second photo – it shows the bench.