Nehalem Bay State Park, located in Tillamook County, Oregon, is a coastline retreat, perfect for RV camping and day-use activities. The park has a historical background that helped shape the facility into what it is today. After a private party donated the land for Nehalem Bay State Park in 1938, officials spent almost 35 years preparing the park for opening day. It was worth the wait. Civilian Conservation Corps workers carved out several hiking trails and made some other improvements to the facility, while other workers planted grass, shrubs, and trees to stabilize the dunes.
Today, over 700,000 people a year visit Nehalem Beach State Park. The park is a microcosm of everything that makes Oregon such a nice place to visit. The sprawling beach is so much larger than just a strip of sand, and the gentle surf is incredibly relaxing. Most of the beach overlooks Nehalem Bay instead of the Pacific Ocean. A little further inland, there are several wooded hiking trails, including a few that are wide enough for horses. As if all this natural beauty was not enough, Nehalem Bay State Park also has a human element. The Park entrance winds through a quiet suburban neighborhood. The small town of Manzanita is also located close by and has markets, stores, and restaurants. The town can be reached by walking along the paved streets or from a walk along the beach.
Nehalem Bay State Park, located in Nehalem, Oregon, is a coastal state park that sits just off of the Oregon Coast Highway, or US-101. The park is approximately 90 miles northwest of Portland. Drivers heading from Portland may encounter a few small climbs along the way that may require slower driving speeds and use of the right lane. From Tacoma, Washington, the park is located 191 miles southwest. Aside from the scenic coastal drive, RVers in larger rigs should be aware of the Arch Cape tunnel, located near Arch Cape, Oregon, which has a 14-foot height restriction. Once you get near the park, follow the signs to the entrance.
If you are flying into the area and renting an RV, perhaps you can pick up your rig right from the park. People arriving on private or smaller planes can make use of the park's airstrip that's located right along the beach.
Parking is available between the day-use areas and the RV campground.
The Nehalem Bay Campground is a multi-looped facility with 265 pet-friendly, standard- hookup sites equipped with water and either 30 or 50-amp electrical hookups. Several of the sites offer campers beach-front views, and all of the sites have a back-in driveway, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Campground amenities include restroom and shower facilities, an amphitheater, a dump station, and a play area. Trees and shrubs provide both shade and privacy in between the sites, and the trees also attract deer that often wander through the campground. If you need help with anything during your stay, there are park hosts onsite to help you. Small fires are allowed, and there are wood and ice for sale at the campgrounds. There is also a convenient trash and recycling center in the park. The Nehalem Bay Campground accepts reservations from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
During the off-season, the Nehalem Bay Campground has three loops open for RV camping. Loops D, E, and F all offer sites on a first-come-first-served basis. Some facilities may be winterized during the colder months of the year, so it's best to contact the park before you arrive if you have questions about park operations.
If you'd like to spend a night outside of your RV, why not try renting a yurt for the night? The campground has 18 yurts for rent, and nine of those yurts sites are pet-friendly. A yurt is a tent and cabin combination, and each one has a domed structure with a supported tent, a wood floor, and a lockable door. Every yurt sleeps five people (three on bunk beds and two on a futon couch). Yurt amenities include lights, a heater, a picnic table, and a fire pit. You can bring along a grill or a propane stove with some cooking utensils to make cooking more manageable, and you can bring sleeping bags and blankets for extra comfort and warmth.
The Nehalem Bay Horse Camp offers 17 primitive equestrian campsites that hold up to four horses per site. These sites are roomy and separated by trees, and guests can choose from either back-in or pull-through sites. The largest driveways accommodate vehicles up to 65 feet in length. To stay in the Horse Camp, guests must have a horse (or other saddle or pack animal) to stay in this campground. Campground amenities include a manure bin and drinking water spigots, and each space has a picnic table and a fire ring.
Neahkahnie Mountain is a prominent peak that dominates the entire Nehalem Bay area. The mountain is thickly forested and is a place where people go to escape into nature. Legend says that there is a Spanish treasure buried somewhere near the summit, and there may be some truth to the legend because Spanish galleons routinely anchored in the Nehalem Bay during the 16th century. Over the years, many people have found clues that are either tantalizing or meaningless, depending on your perspective. Do you have what it takes to find the hidden treasure? If so, begin your trek at the southern trailhead, and make your way up the 2.5-miles to the summit.
Nehalem Bay State Park has two large day-use areas located roughly in the middle of the beach, not far from the airstrip. Facilities available include a meeting hall, which comfortably seats up to 49 people and has a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink with hot and cold water, and restrooms linked to the building. Outside there is a grassy area with picnic tables. The picnic areas make the park an ideal place to host parties, work retreats, or family reunions.
A two-mile paved trail winds through the woods, making this trail an excellent place for wildlife viewing. Animals, especially elk, deer, and coyotes, are often sighted along this route. If you like to bike, this path is It's a great place to get out and explore on two wheels, so be sure to bring your bike with you. If you don't have room for a bike rack on the back of your motorhome, you could rent bikes in the nearby town of Manzanita.
The shore is a great place to look for shorebirds, but the birding is even better in the nearby nesting trees. The threatened western snowy plover is an excellent example of a bird that likes the trees. During the March through September breeding term, these birds flock to the park in large numbers. Individual sections of the park may be closed during the breeding season as not to disturb the bird’s habitat. Look for smaller birds like great horned owls, downy woodpeckers, and northern flickers in the wooded areas. In the beach areas, larger birds, like vultures and bald eagles, often abound.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, check out one of the many learning opportunities at Nehalem Bay State Park. Kids will love the Junior Ranger activities that are available for children ages six to 12. Don’t worry if you aren’t a little one; the park also hosts programs for adults. When you get to the park and set up your rig in the campground, head over to the Visitor Center to see what events are taking place during your stay. There is a lot to learn here; the park has an interesting history, including its formative years as a beeswax depository for the area’s then-thriving candle industry.
Nearby Tillamook Bay gets most of the fishing attention in these parts, but Nehalem Bay is an excellent spot to fish as well. The Chinook salmon is good in the summer and fall, but the best fishing action begins in July and peaks in August. Reaching the daily catch limit usually isn’t a problem during the peak salmon months. Occasionally, salmon fishing extends past the summer. Fishing tip: avoid the fishing jetty and stay around the lower bay. If you’re looking for perch, stick close to the jetty, especially during the spawning season. Before heading to the park, make sure you pick up a fishing license. Oregon requires that all anglers ages 12 and older hold a valid fishing license.
The main boat ramp is usually open from May through September. It’s located near the center of Nehalem Bay, not far from the day-use area. The calm bay waters are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. The sailing is pretty good as well, though the winds are a little calmer here because of the sand dunes. If you don’t have your own kayak or boat, you can rent one from Wheeler Marina, which is a 15-20 minute drive from the park.
This park has over ten miles of equestrian trails, as well as some of the best RV horse facilities at any Oregon state park. Most of the equestrian trails run along the beach, while a few paths meander through the wooded parts of the park. If you don't have a horse, there are horses available for rent, and you can ride the rental horses along the trails as well. The park also has a public training corral which is located in the main day-use area. A horse concession operates here during the summer, making Nehalem Bay State Park a perfect place to ride.
The Nehalem Spit Trail is a 5.2-mile, flat and sandy, out and back trail that ends at a secluded beach. Although this is a multi-use trail, it's mostly used for walking or light hiking. Hikers can expect to see wildlife along the route as well as interesting-shaped driftwood. If you have a dog, you may bring your leashed pup with you along your walk. Hiking trails and other trail maps are available online, or if you prefer a paper map, stop by one of the park offices to pick one up.
The beach is one of the park's prominent features, and many of the park's activities take place along the sandy strip. Beachgoers will love the large picnic area because it has picnic tables, restrooms, and fire rings. Beach activities like beachcombing, wildlife watching, and hiking keep people who love the sand busy. If you are up for a challenge, why not try building a sandcastle? If you like the water more than the sand, windsurfing and surfing are popular pastimes. The beach is close enough to take a quick hike over the sand dunes to watch the sunset over the sea.
Nehalem Bay is home to many different kinds of crabs and clams. Crabbing and clamming is a fun activity for the whole family. There are several species of crabs and clams found in the bay. These include purple varnish clams, soft shell clams, butter clams, and crabs. The shellfish are spread out over the bay; some are on the shore, while others are only accessible by boat. Clamming is mainly a year-round activity depending on the availability of the clams. Crabs are a little different, and a good practice is to avoid harvesting crabs during the months that have a letter R in them.