With unimpeded 360 degree views of sea stacks, dramatic cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean, the God’s Thumb hike is easily one of the best trails on the entire Oregon coast! And while the views from God’s Thumb are unmatched, the vista from “the Knoll”, a grassy hill overlooking Lincoln City, is almost as impressive! With two epic viewpoints squeezed into this 4.3–mile hike, there is plenty to love about the God’s Thumb hike in Oregon! Keep reading to learn why the God’s Thumb hike should be at the top of your Oregon coast bucket list!
God’s thumb hike overview
- Distance | 4.3 out-and-back or 4.7 as a loop (more detail on the difference between the routes below)
- Elevation | Approximately 1,100 feet
- Difficulty | Moderate
- Total Time | 2 to 3 hours
- Epic-ness Rating | 7
Find this hike on AllTrails: God’s Thumb via the Knoll
The God’s Thumb hike is a moderately difficult, 4.3-mile trail just north of Lincoln City, along the Oregon Coast.
With breathtaking and mildly disorienting views of rugged sea stacks and the powerful Pacific ocean, the hike to God’s Thumb is easily one of the best hikes along the Oregon coast!
Not only does the hike culminate at the top of a narrow outcropping high above the water (aka God’s Thumb), but it also crosses through “the Knoll”, a grassy hill overlooking Lincoln City and Wecoma Beach with sweeping views from the ocean to the mountains.
We lived on the Oregon coast for 2 months and explored nearly every nook and cranny of the iconic coastline from Astoria all the way down to Brookings. In all of our Oregon coast adventures, the hike to God’s Thumb is definitely our favorite hike!
Other oregon Resources
Looking for more to do on the Oregon Coast?! We’ve got lots of resources to help you plan your trip!
- Good “bang for your buck” with multiple viewpoints along the hike.
- The view from God’s Thumb is easily one of the best along the entire Oregon coast.
- Perfect amount of distance/elevation for an afternoon or morning hike.
- Multiple trailheads are confusing.
- Limited parking at the trailhead closest to the start of the “out-and-back” option, which is our preferred route.
- A few super steep sections make for an additional challenge.
why is it called god’s thumb?
God’s Thumb is a small outcropping that jets out into the ocean, shaped vaguely like a thumb.
The highlight of the God’s Thumb hike is the final quarter mile which follows along a narrow ridge leading towards the “thumb”.
To reach God’s Thumb, the trail first leads down towards the ridge before climbing up very steeply, giving the entire formation a uniquely “thumb-like” appearance, hence the name “God’s Thumb.”
Where is the God’s Thumb Hike?
The God’s Thumb hike is located on the beautiful and majestic Oregon coast, just north of Lincoln City in the central part of the coast.
From Portland, the drive to the trailhead is just under 2 hours. From Salem, the drive is about 1 hour and you’re looking at a 2 hour journey from Eugene.
If you’re planning an Oregon coast road trip, you’ll find the driving distance from other popular spots below:
- Astoria | 2.5 hours
- Seaside | 2 hours
- Cannon Beach | 1 hour 45 minutes
- Tillamook | 51 minutes
- Yachats | 1 hour 15 minutes
- Florence | 1 hour 45 minutes
- Coos Bay | 2 hours 45 minutes
- Bandon | 3 hours 15 minutes
Hike options | Out-and-back vs. loop
There are two different ways to complete the God’s Thumb hike: either as an out-and-back or as a loop. The loop is slightly longer, at 4.7 miles vs. 4.3 miles, and frankly doesn’t add much in terms of views.
The two routes are very similar in terms of distance, elevation gain, and scenery, and either hike will bring you to both the Knoll and God’s Thumb. The one advantage of the loop is that you forego hiking a short section along a gravel road twice, taking a nice trail through the forest instead.
We took the loop route but didn’t think it was worth the extra distance. We’d recommend the out-and-back option because you reach the most picturesque parts of the hike more quickly.
For this article, we’ll focus on the out-and-back option but will provide some information about the loop as well, if you’re looking to add a bit more distance to your God’s Thumb Hike.
How Difficult is the God’s Thumb hike?
The God’s Thumb hike is moderately difficult. The distance is very manageable, but the trail has a few very steep sections, especially as you climb up God’s Thumb.
Make sure you are in reasonably good physical fitness and able to climb steep hills before attempting the God’s Thumb hike.
Best time to hike God’s thumb
The Pacific Northwest is notorious for damp, dreary weather and the Oregon coast is no exception. The area sees upwards of 200 inches of rain each year. As such, you should always be prepared for a random rain shower.
Winter months tend to be cold and wet, with temperatures ranging in the 40s and 50s. While snow is rare, rain, wind, clouds, and fog are the norm.
In the spring and summer, temperatures range between 55 and 70 and sunshine becomes more frequent, although clouds and fog are still common.
Peak season is definitely during the summer, and while we’d usually recommend avoiding a place during its busiest season, we actually think it’s best to hike God’s Thumb during the summer. The increased odds of sunshine and warmer temperatures are worth the additional crowds.
Regardless of when you hike God’s Thumb, you can expect the trail to be muddy and you should always pack your rain jacket. No matter what your weather app says or how sunny the skies seem when you start, weather along the Oregon coast can change more quickly than anywhere we’ve ever seen.
what to pack for hiking God’s Thumb
Below are a few items we’d recommend packing for the hike to God’s Thumb:
- Rain jacket | Even if it’s sunny when you start, it’s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket when hiking on the Oregon Coast because the weather can be crazy unpredictable! My Patagonia Torrentshell is my all-time favorite rain jacket for hiking.
- Hiking boots | The final section of the trail up to God’s Thumb is super steep, so you’ll want to wear shoes with good traction. I love my Danner Mountain 400s because they’re comfortable, waterproof, and even a bit stylish!
- Hiking Poles | There are certainly some steep sections throughout the God’s Thumb hike where a set of hiking poles are very helpful.
- Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | Be prepared for heavy wind once you reach God’s Thumb. Trust us, you’ll be happy you packed some extra warmer laters.
God’s thumb Hike Details
With logistics out of the way, let’s get into details about the hike! Again, we’re focusing on the out-and-back option for the rest of the article but will provide some information on the loop trail at the end.
god’s thumb Trailhead & Parking
The trailhead situation for the God’s Thumb hike is a little confusing, mainly because there are a few smaller, “unofficial” trailheads that have a limited number of parking spaces.
The official trailhead for the hike is located here, at the end of a cul-de-sac, on the edge of a largely undeveloped neighborhood. It’s a little weird but just follow your GPS and you’ll get there.
There is lots of parking on both sides of the street leading up to the trailhead. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot. There is also a porta-potty at the trailhead.
Alternative parking options
There are two other trail access points with very small parking areas, located here and here. If you are doing the loop hike, you should park in the official parking lot. There is no need to try to find a space at one of the unofficial trailheads, as it won’t save you any distance.
However, if you’re doing the out-and-back hike, you could try to snag a spot at one of the smaller trailheads. This trailhead will save you about 1 mile round trip, while this trailhead will cut out half a mile.
All that being said, parking is very limited at both of the smaller trailheads. They are located at the end of a road leading through a private neighborhood, so you’ll basically be parking in front of someone’s house.
Be extra careful not to park in a prohibited area and remember that you are near someone’s home. Treat the area as you would like your neighborhood treated.
Honestly, we’d recommend just parking at the main trailhead. It’s probably not worth the extra time you’ll spend looking for a spot to shave off half a mile.
starting the hike
The first .75 mile of the hike to the God’s Thumb is a gradual incline through dense forest, with bright green ferns and moss clinging to the sides of centuries old sitka spruce trees.
While there are no views yet, we are always amazed by the abundance of life in the forest throughout the PNW. Everything is just so green!
After about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach a junction in the trail. Turn left to head towards the Knoll.
If you stay straight, you’ll bypass the Knoll. There is really no reason to skip it, as it offers lovely views and adds negligible distance.
The Knoll itself is a grassy hill overlooking Wecoma Beach and the mountains to the east. Honestly, the view from the Knoll is worth the hike on its own. Nonetheless, its really just a nice appetizer to God’s Thumb, which is easily one of the best view points on the Oregon coast!
The Knoll is a perfect place to stop for a rest, have a snack and a sip of water before continuing on to God’s Thumb.
hiking toward’s God’s thumb
After another half a mile (1.25 miles total), you’ll reach a fork in the trail. Taking a left will bring you out to God’s Thumb while turning right will bring you back towards the trailhead via the loop route. Make sure you take a left and head out towards God’s Thumb.
This part of the trail features some pretty intense ups and downs through the forest, so be ready for a bit of effort. Eventually, the ocean comes back into view and you’ll know you’re getting close to God’s Thumb!
climbing God’s Thumb
After about 2 miles total, the trees start to open up and you’ll catch your first glimpse of God’s Thumb towering in the distance – it’s quite the sight!
The trail then dips down towards the edge of the cliff before crossing the most precarious part of the trail. To one side, the cliff drops off to the rocky beach hundreds of feet below. To the other side is a fairly steep grassy hill. On top of that, the wind will likely be roaring through this section!
All that being said, the trail along the ridge is fairly wide, the ground is solid, and it’s only about 50 or so yards in total distance. We didn’t find it too scary. Sarah is usually afraid of heights but had no problem crossing the ridge to reach God’s Thumb.
Once you cross the ridge, the trail then jets straight up for one last short push, until you reach a small clearing sitting at the top of the God’s Thumb!
And finally, you made it to the top of God’s Thumb!
From God’s Thumb, you’ll be able to enjoy unimpeded 360-degree views of the powerful Pacific Ocean, the rocky cliffs of the Oregon coast, sea stacks, and perhaps some whales or seals!
There is plenty of space to have a snack and soak up the views!
After you’ve enjoyed all the views, it’s time to head back down to the car. Luckily, the hike back follows the same trail as the hike up to God’s Thumb, meaning the return journey is mostly downhill!
Make sure you swing by the Knoll one last time before reaching the trailhead!
Hike modification | Loop Option
If you’d prefer to complete the God’s Thumb hike as a loop, the only difference from the out-and-back route we’ve described is on the return hike.
Rather than returning the same way you came, when you reach the junction from the trail out to God’s Thumb with the main trail, take a left. This path continues along the other side of the loop trail and will eventually bring you back to the trailhead.
Other Oregon Resources
Looking for more incredible hikes and things to do in Oregon? You may also be interested in the following:
- How to Visit Secret Beach: An Off-the-Beaten Path Hike in Oregon
- 24 Can’t Miss Things to do in Bandon, Oregon
- Why Oceanside, Oregon is Worth a Visit
- Hobbit Trail in Florence, Oregon: A Magical Forest to Beach Hike
- Guide to Visiting the Spouting Horn in Cook’s Chasm
- 21 Amazing Things to Do in Coos Bay, Oregon
- How to Visit Thor’s Well: A Mysterious Ocean Cauldron
Questions about hiking to God’s Thumb on the Oregon Coast? Let us know in the comments section below!