Connecting the 367-mile ‘unfinished gem’ of the Oregon Coast

Few pathways conjure up more conflicting emotions than the Oregon Coast Trail. One moment you’re hiking to the top of a rocky headland and looking upon a vast sweep of ocean. The next you’re risking life and limb on the shoulder of Highway 101 as cars and trucks scream past a few feet away.

The 367-mile trail, which stretches from the California state line to Astoria, brings hikers to Oregon’s most beautiful coastal viewpoints and cliff-walled beaches. But it also forces them onto one of the state’s busiest highways, sometimes for miles at a time.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful trail — the only one of its kind in the nation,” said Connie Soper, an author and expert on hiking the Oregon Coast Trail. “Unfortunately, it’s unfinished. Having to walk on the highway is dangerous, unpleasant for hikers and drivers, and really stops the trail from reaching its potential.”

Now a collection of hikers and lawmakers is hoping to change that. Legislation intended to help complete the pathway will have its first hearing this week morning at the Oregon Capitol.

An advocacy group, Friends of the Oregon Coast Trail, has been formed by Soper and Salem resident Dan Hilburn to spearhead the project.

They say making it possible to hike the OCT end-to-end — without long stretches on the highway — could make the trail a world-famous destination, providing a “village-to-village” experience unmatched in the United States.

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