A Pacific Coast headland, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint is one of the three capes along the breathtaking 35-mile Three Capes Scenic Route. Two other points of the route, Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda Natural Area are also absolutely worth visiting.
The 100-acre Cape Meares State Park managed by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is surrounded by the 140-acre Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge managed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
A small rocky promontory with the great viewpoints which is situated 200 feet (61 meters) above the coastline, Cape Meares offers spectacular vistas of crashing ocean waves on the steep bluff and rocky cliffs. The rocks and cliffs are home to one of the largest nesting seabird colonies in North America. The most numerous birds are Common murres. Also, pigeon guillemotos, tufted puffins, peregrine falcons, pelagic and Brandt's cormorants are frequently seen in this unique site. The best time for seabirds watching is between April and July.
Cape Meares offers excellent viewpoints to spot migrating gray whales from December to January when they traveled south to their breeding grounds in Mexico and from March to April when they migrate back to Alaska.
The park has several scenic hiking trails which total to 3 miles of distance. One of the walking trail leads to the large unusually-shaped Sitka spruce, know as Octopus Tree. The age of Octopus Tree is estimated to be 250 to 300 years. Being 105-foot tall with the 50-foot base without central trunk, the tree resembles an octopus with giant tentacles heading towards the sky.
The Octopus Tree is designated as an Oregon Heritage Tree in April 2009 and it is believed to carry big ceremonial significance for the local native population back in the days.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
Another point of interest is the shortest on the Oregon Coast lighthouse, constructed in 1890 on Cape Meares. Standing 217 feet above the ocean, the 38-foot-high lighthouse was the Tillamook Bay’s light station until 1963. This lighthouse was replaced with a newer one and now is a popular tourist attraction.
Unfortunately, over the years the lighthouse became a subject of vandalism with the most recent incident in 2010. Two drunk Oceanside men opened fire at the lighthouse causing damage that has being estimated at around $500,000. They were later arrested and got sentenced to three separate 16-day jail terms over three years. Each separate term started on the 27th of December, the date when the vandalism took place and ended on January 11th. According to the judge who made the unusual ruling, it should be the reminder of those men’s mistakes. In addition to the jail sentence, vandals must pay $100,000 compensations for damage coverage.
The lighthouse is open for visitors from May to September. There is no fee associated with tours and admissions. The lighthouse is open 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays and weekends with extended weekend hours from June through August being 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Cape Meares | General Description
Services: Flush restroom, picnic area
Activities: Hiking, nature viewing, and photography
Accommodations: No camping at the site, lodging in Oceanside and Tillamook
Distance from the trailhead: Short
Hike Difficulty Level: Easy
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Free
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Popularity: Low to Moderate
Elevation: 200-300 ft (61-91 m)
Cape Meares is located:
- 12 miles northwest of Tillamook
- 84 miles west of Portland
- 84 miles northwest of Salem
- 150 miles northwest of Eugene.