“Why are there so many of these trail markers?” I wondered to myself as we rode along the North Spit Trails near Wild Mare Horse Camp, north of Coos Bay, Oregon. Every few hundred feet we were seeing sturdy triangular posts with the trail name on it and arrows pointing the way. “After all, the trail is very well defined. Doesn’t seem like we need these reassurance markers to tell us what trail we’re on.”
That was early in the ride. By the time we had ridden a few miles, I totally got it. Some sections of the North Spit Trails run between sand dunes, and at times the shifting sands may cover over the trail tread. However, by riding from marker post to marker post in these sections it’s easy to find your way.
In addition to the marker posts, major trail junctions have “You Are Here” maps to keep you oriented.
The North Spit Trails are a series of loops — over 17 miles in all — that run the length of the North Spit on the north side of Coos Bay (the bay, not the town).
The trails wind through dense stands of shore pines, between sand dunes, and around low-lying areas of shrubs and sedges that are undoubtedly underwater in winter. You can ride several excellent trails through the dunes, or follow the foredune road, or at low tide you can ride a jeep road along the shore of Coos Bay. (Keep an eye out for the WWII defensive bunker nestled into the hillside along the bay.) Or you can ride along the beach, though you should avoid the snowy plover nesting areas in season.
Because the North Spit Trails are arranged in a series of stacked loops, you can do rides of almost any length, varying your route dramatically depending on which trails you choose. So next time you’re at Wild Mare Horse Camp, make the short trailer drive to the North Spit trailhead and experience this delightful trail network for yourself.
Getting There: The North Spit Trailhead is located 8 miles north of Coos Bay and 25 miles south of Reedsport, off Hwy. 101 on the Oregon coast. Turn west on Trans Pacific Lane and follow the signs toward Horsfall Beach. Instead of turning right toward Horsfall Beach and Wild Mare Horse Camp, go straight for 3 more miles. The equestrian parking area is on the right about 0.1 mile past the BLM boat launch.
Fees: No fee to park at the North Spit Trailhead
Season: Year round
Facilities: North Spit Trailhead has parking for many trailers, but no other facilities. You can camp overnight at Wild Mare Horse Camp, a few miles away off Horsfall Road. It has 12 sites with corrals, potable water, toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and a large day-use parking area.
More Information: The North Spit Trail is covered in more detail in the Wild Mare chapter of Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2014).
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, October, 2016.