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Enjoy big trees, sea on Humbug Mountain trail

A trail on the Oregon Coast gives you a look at two of our most famous tourist attractions: big trees and the Pacific Ocean.

Give yourself more time than you think you need for the 5.5-mile (round trip) loop to the summit of Humbug Mountain. The trail climbs steadily from near sea level to the top of the 1,761-foot rocky outcrop at the water's edge. There are fine stands of old-growth trees to admire, small things on the forest floor to see and ocean water aplenty to gaze upon.

The mountain takes its name from the region's early history, when a group of miners sailed into Port Orford intent on making their way to the gold fields around what would become Jacksonville.

The massive rock was originally known as Sugarloaf Mountain. In "Oregon Geographic Names," Lewis McArthur tells the story of an exploring party sent out by Capt. William Tichenor in 1851 at the height of the Oregon gold rush. The party got lost and struggled through dense old-growth forest and thick understory plants to the summit.

Their disgust surfaced in the new name they gave the mountain: "Tichenor's Humbug." The captain's name eventually fell out of use, but the Humbug part of the name persists 150 years later.

Humbug Mountain lies between Highway 101 and the ocean, about six miles south of Port Orford and 21 miles north of Gold Beach. The trail is a good place to spend most of a day when you're looking for something to do other than promenade the beach.

The highway veers off the coast to go around the mountain. There are signs for trailhead parking about a quarter mile north of the park campground.

The trail begins in a stand of grand maples and myrtlewood trees. Waist-high sword ferns and delicate maidenhair ferns remind you that you've left the drier climes of the Rogue Valley.

Old-growth trees along the trail enhance the mood. There are Port Orford cedars, Douglas firs and western hemlock, some as large as 6 feet in diameter in one of the last stands of big trees so close to the water.

The trail forks about a mile from the highway. The right fork gains the summit in 1.5 miles, but it's a steeper climb than the left fork, which delivers you to the same place for an extra half mile of walking. The right fork also has the best view to the north to Port Orford and Cape Blanco.

Either way you go, it's an extra 500 feet to the summit, where a steep grassy meadow and bracken provides a view south to Gold Beach and the adjacent coast.

Retrace your steps or take the other half of the loop back down to parking lot.

Reach reporter Bill Kettlerat 776-4492, or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.