Southern Oregon's midsummer heat should be all the excuse you need to spend a day on the coast, and there are few better choices for a day hike than the Cape Sebastian Trail.

Southern Oregon's midsummer heat should be all the excuse you need to spend a day on the coast, and there are few better choices for a day hike than the Cape Sebastian Trail.

Rugged islands, sea stacks and breaking waves make the view from the cape one of the most photographed sites along the coast. Even if you've never been there, the place may give you an eerie sense of deja vu because you've probably seen it in some coffee table book or calendar.

On this trail you can grab the snapshot scenery a few minutes' walk from your car, or spend hours traversing the cape, descending to the beach and retracing your steps.

The cape was named by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino — not for himself, but for Saint Sebastian, whose feast day is Jan. 20, the day Vizcaino sailed past this site in 1603.

The easiest, quickest path to the scenic overlook starts about five miles south of Gold Beach, off Highway 101. There's another access point 1.7 miles farther south on the highway, just north of the Myers Creek Wayside. If your party has two cars, you could leave one at each point and avoid having to retrace your steps.

From a parking lot at the north access, the trail quickly reaches a scenic overlook, then descends through a series of switchbacks through stands of Sitka spruce, the quintessential coast conifer. They're easily identified by their hard, prickly needles, which grow all around the twigs. Many of the larger trees swell conspicuously where the tree ends and the root begins.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail leaves the trees and drops down to the beach, in an area named Hunters Cove, named for the sea otter hunters who worked here until the otters were gone.

The cove often offers shelter from the wind that tends to buffet the cape on warm sunny days. The wind develops when inland areas heat up and the warm air rises. Ocean air drifts in to fill the void, making brisk breezes on the headlands.

From Hunters Cove the beach stretches for more than a mile before Myers Creek forces you to get wet feet or turn around. The Myers Creek Wayside, about 2.5 miles from where you started, lies just north of the creek.

Road directions and trail descriptions can be found in "Day Hiking Oregon Coast," by Bonnie Henderson, (The Mountaineers Books, $18). This compact guide includes descriptions of 120 trails, including 30 on the south coast between Cape Arago and the California border.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com