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Oregon North Coast

What to See & Do | Three Capes | Endless Beach

The 168 miles of coastline north of the Oregon Dunes is the historic area discovered by Lewis and Clark, and much loved by summer visitors from Portland and other nearby cities. Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, is a city filled with history, from the pre-historic Native encampments, through the fur trading period, and the days when the Columbia River was a major trading thoroughfare.

reconstruction of the Lewis and Clark winter encampment (Fort Clatsop), and a civil war bastion (Fort Stephens), built to keep possible Confederate invaders out on the ocean, or blasted off it with cannons. The fort is now included in a state park, located ten miles west of Astoria, with nature trails, swimming in Coffenbury Lake, and the trailhead for the Oregon Coast Trail located at the south jetty in the northwest corner of the park. The trail, not yet completed, offers long stretches of hiking trail along the state's ocean beaches and headlands. Fort Stephens has a large camping facility, with RV and trailer sites accommodating vehicles up to 69 feet long.

What to See & Do

You'll encounter mixed attractions, including a few delightful forest walks in the Siskiyou National Forest, a dozen towns of varying sizes along the beaches and slightly inland in the agricultural valleys, and notable state parks which serve to protect the seashore, while offering bits of Oregon history (including several lighthouses), and fascinating natural environments. This is the coastal area known for haystacks and seastacks, the huge rocks rising offshore.

Ecola State Park provides the first major access to the oceanside. Located 28 miles south of Astoria, the park offers wonderful views of the ocean and beaches, all the way south to Oswald West State Park. This park has 3.5 miles of walkable beach, plus fine stands of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Elk and deer live in the park. Within the park, the Tillamook Head Trail runs six miles, between the towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach. The park includes a walk-in campground, at Indian Creek.

Highway 101 continues southward, through the town of Seaside, and then past Cannon Beach and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (de-commissioned, and a mile offshore). Just south of the Clatsop-Tillamook county line, is Oswald West State Park, named in hour of the state governor who proclaimed the Oregon beaches to be publicly accessible. This park includes most of Neahkanie Mountain (with a trail), and Cape Falcon. A quarter-mile hike leads tenters to a number of primitive campsites in the forest. The park is well-known to surfers. You'll find a series of scenic viewpoints along the highway. Neahkanie Beach is in the southern portion of the park, at the base of the mountain.

South of the town of Manzanita, Nehalem Bay State Park is reached by an access road leading west for three miles. The park extends to the tip of the spit enclosing Nehalem Bay, with large campgrounds, camping in yurts, a horse camp with corrals, and a hiker-biker camp. No reservations are taken. There is a boat ramp at the nearby town of Nehalem.

Manhattan Beach Wayside Park, 48 miles south of Astoria, is a day-use picnic area, on the beach. Tillamook County maintains a campground beside Lake Lytle, two miles south of the wayside. The highway continues through Rockaway Beach (the town), and then through three small towns on the eastern shore of Tillamook Bay (Barview, Garibaldi, and Bay City). It then leads inland a few miles to the town of Tillamook -- a mecca for cheese lovers, with the huge Tillamook Cheese Factory (specializing in cheddar), and Blue Heron Cheese (housed in an old Dutch dairy barn, dedicated to making Brie and Camembert. Both cheese factories welcome visitors for tasting and buying.

Three Capes

The Three Capes Scenic Loop is a route leading west from Highway 101, to an exceptionally beautiful piece of coastline, which includes Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. Cape Meares State Park is a large day-use park offering picnicking, beach activity, and a visit to the historic Cape Meares Lighthouse. Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a prime birding area, known for the largest flock of puffins on the Pacific Coast. Cape Lookout State Park has camping within its 1,974 acres. This is one of the state coastal parks which take campsite reservations between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For information on availability, and to make reservations, call the state parks department at 800-452-5687 (in-state and out of Portland), or (503) 731-3411 (in Portland and out of state).

There are two parks which cover the Cape Kiwanda area. A Tillamook County park includes the parking area for both. The state park contains the cape, with a huge haystack rock offshore. As the Three Capes Loop passes Pacific City, the route provides access to Bob Stroud State Park. This day-use park offers exciting walking on a section of dunes, on Nestucca Spit.

Cascade Head Experimental Forest is found along the historic (former) Highway 101, which leads off the newer 101, just south of the town of Neskowin. The forest headquarters office provides information on silvaculture. Another sideroad, this one three miles south of Neskowin, leads to Cascade Head. Heading west off Highway 101, you'll find the middle trailhead of the Cascade Head Trail. This six-mile trail has its north trailhead two miles south of Neskowin, and its southern terminus on Highway 101, two miles south of Neskowin. Continuing along Cascade Head Road, you'll see the junction with Forest Road 1861. This road leads to the trailhead of the Harts Cove Trail.

Endless Beach

The stretch of coast south of the Three Capes contains the popular Lincoln County beaches, a continuous 60 miles of white sandy beach, with a succession of state beach parks and beach-side tourist towns, including Lincoln City, Gleneden Beach, Depoe Bay, Otter Rock, Newport, Seal Rock, Waldport and Yachats (pronounced Ya-Hots).

Halfway down this strip of beach is Newport, positioned on Yaquinna Bay, the home of the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, next door. Keiko, the orca star of the Free Willy movies has migrated from Mexico, and is now in residence in an upscale killer whale home, in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The science center sponsors daily dock and estuary walks during summer. The aquarium, with its displays of marine animals, plus a seabird aviary, charges an entry fee. Entry to the science center is free. The major section of the Siuslaw National Forest appears just south of Newport, where it is two miles inland. By the time you reach Yachats and Cape Perpetua, Highway 101 is into the forest, with access to scenic trails and Forest Service campgrounds.

Crossing the Lincoln-Lane county line, we're now 168.5 miles south of Astoria, more than halfway down the Oregon Coast, and at an unsigned beach access point, one of many along the coast that provide paths to walk onto secluded stretches of ocean beach. This beach is noted for a sea "horn," a spout of water blown through holes in the rock. There are other horns to the south. Neptune State Park (another mile) has picnic tables and restrooms. Less than a mile south is a short road to the Cummins Ridge Trailhead. This is a prime, 18.6-mile hiking loop in the Siuslaw National Forest.

A small wayside park is located at Bob Creek. Again, there are no facilities, but a short stay here is recommended. Mussels are in plentiful supply on the rocks at low tide, and the creek mouth is a home for ducks. Harlequin ducks have been seen here. Four miles south of Bob Creek, Ocean Beach State Park offers picnicking in a small wayside area next to another beach. The Forest Service operates Rock Creek Campground, a small but extremely scenic site in the forest, about .25 mile from the highway.

Two major state parks are located just north of Florence. Carl G. Washburne State Park is comprised of 1,800 acres of beach (more than a mile long) and shoreline vegetation. China Creek and Cape Creek flow through the park, offering wildlife habitat. There are tidepools to explore, and elk to view at a distance. A day-use area with picnic tables and rest rooms is located west of Highway 101. A campground is east of the highway, with additional walk-in sites, and a hiker-biker camp. The campground is open year-round. Devil's Elbow State Park is adjacent to the Hecata Head Lighthouse. The park is a day-use facility for picnicking and walking along the seafront. The historic lighthouse is open for tours Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 pm., during the summer months.


Oregon Destinations

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon North Coast

Oregon South Coast

Oregon Dunes



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