That Nature Conservancy's Cascade Head Preserve near Lincoln City, OR, overlooking the Oregon Coast
Cascade Head Preserve Headland of TNC's Cascade Head Preserve near Lincoln City, Oregon. © Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Cascade Head Preserve

Oregon

A spectacular coastal headland is a haven for rare plants, wildlife and grassland communities.

Cascade Head Preserve is a haven for rare plants, wildlife and grassland communities once abundant along the Oregon Coast and provides critical habitat for native prairie grasses, rare wildflowers and the Oregon silverspot butterfly—and people with the opportunity to enjoy them.

How TNC Acquired This Site

In the early 1960s, volunteers organized an effort to protect Cascade Head from development. The Nature Conservancy bought it in 1966 from the owner of the Cascade Head Ranch development with funds raised in part by local volunteers and the Mazama’s hiking club. Because of its ecological significance, Cascade Head Preserve and surrounding national forest and other lands have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

Thanks to your support, researchers are testing methods of maintaining and restoring grassland habitat.

Given that grasslands need periodic disturbance and the history of Tribal burning at the site, we are using controlled burning as a management tool to help achieve that goal. Following burns, we spread the seeds of native prairie plants, collected on-site, to help stimulate the growth of native plants over invasive non-native species. With the help of our partners, we plan to continue using fire management as a way to keep trees and shrubs from invading the grassland, as well as providing other benefits such as nutrient cycling, reducing thatch, and stimulating native prairie plants.

TNC ecologists also monitor the populations of rare plants throughout the year. In spring and summer, teams of volunteers remove invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, help maintain trails, assist with research projects and teach visitors about the preserve. Join our volunteer team today!

Additionally, our scientists are also helping evaluate sites off Oregon's coast to better protect natural resources, including right off Cascade Head. The marine reserves will protect fish as they rear and grow; then the fish disperse into areas where they can be sustainably harvested.

What to See: Animals

The Oregon silverspot butterfly, federally listed as a threatened species, is known to only four other locations in the world. The butterfly depends on a single plant species, the early blue violet (which grows in coastal grassland openings), to serve as food for its larvae. Elk, deer, coyote, snowshoe hare and the Pacific giant salamander frequent the preserve, while bald eagle, great horned owl, northern harrier, red-tail hawk and the occasional peregrine falcon soar in hunting forays over the grassy slopes.

What to See: Plants

Formed by the uplift of underwater volcanic basalt flows, the headland is unusual for the extent of its prairies dominated by native species: red fescue, wild rye, Pacific reedgrass, coastal paintbrush, goldenrod, blue violet and streambank lupine. Rare wildflowers include hairy checkermallow and the Cascade Head catchfly, with 99% of the catchfly's world population found only here.

Each year more than 35,000 visitors hike Cascade Head Preserve to enjoy the views, wildflowers and wildlife.

Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Even the scent of a dog disrupts wildlife.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, camping or campfires.
  • For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
  • Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
  • Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).

Trails

Lower Nature Conservancy Trail: Approx. 2.5 miles to Lower Viewpoint

  • The first 0.25 mile of trail runs parallel to a road and crosses it a number of times. When the trail leaves the road, it climbs a series of steep steps. The trail also passes through private property at times and U.S. Forest Service land. Please stay on the trail and respect private property. Most of the trail takes you through a forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Once on the grassland, the trail continues another 0.6 miles to a lower viewpoint. From there, the trail gains elevation for the next 0.5 miles to an upper viewpoint. The trail then continues for another mile to the upper trailhead.

 

Upper Nature Conservancy Trail (closed by the U.S. Forest Service from January 1 to July 15): Approx. 1 mile to Upper Viewpoint

  • The first 0.75 mile of trail passes through U.S. Forest Service land. Once on the preserve, the trail continues another 0.25 mile to an upper viewpoint. From there the trail loses elevation for the next 0.5 miles to the lower viewpoint, where it connects with the Lower Nature Conservancy Trail. Please stay on the trail to protect fragile prairie habitat. 

 

Trail Accessibility

  • Caution: Trails are steep and may be slippery in places. In addition, there are steep cliffs on the preserve. Use caution when crossing roads. 
  • Notice: There are no restroom facilities (other than at the beginning of the Lower trail at Knight Park) or drinking water available on the preserve. 

Stand Up for Nature in Oregon

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends, and for nearly 60 years, we've been working in Oregon to do just that. We're bringing people together to solve the biggest conservation challenges of our time by transforming policy, inspiring communities to take action, protecting vital habitats and natural resources and improving livelihoods.