To descend to the N TH at the brown sign and pullout for the Santa Maria Trail return steeply to the nearby tiny saddle, then turn right 2 mi to the highway, but it’s not all downhill just yet. Head down 3 solid switchbacks into the forest before Santa Maria a level stretch, then hike NW up less than 5 mi before undulating more subtly for the remainder. There are more tree roots to remind you that you are in the rugged Santa Maria , but they aren’t unbearable as you work past more giant spruce, fir, and cedar with ferns dominating the flora in a couple distinct sections. The trail narrows and becomes slightly overgrown at times especially Santa Maria near the bottom.
Where is Santa Maria? | Santa Maria Map | Map of Santa Maria Photo Gallery
Coastal birds are heard singing from the tall pines through the breeze. At almost a mile from the summit viewpoint is the first of 6 gentle switchbacks before rising a few feet, crossing a tiny creek on the narrowing trail, and coming to 2 more quick switchbacks. The ocean views and coastal cliffs come into play as the trees thin and the flora with wildflowers blooming thickens next to the trail in the steep meadow for the final 3 switchbacks down to the N TH. Be very cautious crossing the highway.
As a bonus from the N TH you are able to take a worthwhile spur more than 5 mi to the Treasure Cove Overlook. Follow the narrow Oregon Coast Trail down steeply from the center of the pullout toward the ocean forking right almost immediately. Then left at the next fork into the woods to a bench and safety fence. The view is impeccable far down into the active cove and up the coast. Use care with children close to the cliff, especially if you bushwhack around to the opposite side of the cove from the main trail for another vantage point. The overgrown bushwhack path that continues to loop around the nearby little tree- and rhododendron-covered bump to scarce views of nearby Devil’s Cauldron is dangerous and not worth it. Return back up to the N TH and continue with care walking or riding along the highway to your vehicle finishing steeply 5 mi up the gravel road if you parked at the S TH.