Cape Lookout, Oregon

Location: Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast, near Tillamook
Access: From Netarts, drive 7.8 miles south on Netarts Bay Rd to the trailhead on the west which is clearly marked. From the south, a few miles north of Beaver, take the "Three Capes Loop" (Sand Lake Rd) to the west for about 8 miles to the trailhead.
Trail: Easy, well-trod 2.5-mile one-way trip along the mellow ridgeline to a lookout near the tip of the peninsula. Often muddy and cool.
Maps: USGS 7.5' Quadrangle: Sand Lake
Fees: None, unless camping in the park

September, 2005
It was day 3 of our great 2005 Pacific Northwest getaway. Andra and I cruised up Hwy 101 with the nonchalance only tourists are capable of. I scanned the Oregon gazetteer as Andra drove north, and engaged in an unending conversation regarding where to stop, and when to keep going, knowing that we could not possibly stop at all the roadside attractions along the way to Washington. I love that so much of the Oregon coast is easily accessible and not fenced off by rich folks.

From the map, a jutting finger of land poking out like a thumb from the continent caught my eye, and it looked like just the sort of place we needed to be. After leaving Highway 101, we followed the winding roads through forests and fields until we arrived at the parking lot for the Cape Lookout trail at around 10AM. The sun was shining without hindrance, just as I like it. The parking lot was cool and quiet in the shade of massive spruce and fir trees. Only 2 cars were in the lot. Their occupants were not to be seen. We packed up some refreshments into my daypack and I grabbed my camera and we were off down the trail. 

Shaded densely, the narrow path was soft and spongy like a 3 foot layer of pressed sawdust. Ferns covered the ground on both sides of the trail, while giant spruces created the feeling of being inside a building rather than outdoors. The air was calm and thick with maritime moisture. The trail led west, with the land sloping away steeply to the south, into the ocean. So far down was the water that the waves could be seen, but not heard. Within 50 yards of the trailhead, the trail branched, with one fork leading downward, presumably to the water, and the other fork staying level and heading west. We headed west. 

The smell of the forest is perhaps one of the most exciting smells I know of. The smell of the forest is the smell of fun, if you ask me. Rich aromas of shaded tree bark and mouldering evergreen needles filled the air. Flecks of sunlight littered the ground of wet soil and rotting leaves as we walked quickly in the cool morning air. High banks of sword ferns lined the trail, while graceful maidenhair ferns clung to the north faces of rocky banks and downed logs. Moss covered almost everything that wasn't already photosynthesizing. The trail stayed pretty level, only dipping down as it crossed ravines, then returning to the same elevation. It was quite easy walking. The ocean was in view to the south for the first half of the trek, then the trail meandered over to the north side of the peninsula and the ocean was again in view to the north, only now we could hear the crashing of the waves and enjoy the foam and surf on the volcanic rock shore below. To the north, we could see the chain of sea stacks off of Cape Meares.  From the best vantage point of this action, a chain-link fence lined the trail to prevent overzealous watchers from plunging down the Cliffside 200 feet to the water below.

We passed several groups of people, seemingly more than was warranted by the low number of cars in the lot. Their voices did not travel far in the thick growth, and we heard them little more than a few seconds before seeing them, and then they were gone. I stopped often to take photographs in the golden forest light, the liquid ditty floating on microscopic water droplets wafting through the air beneath the spruces. Continuing on the trail brought us back around to the southern-face, and here and there the trail darted out of the trees and into the bright sunlight. In these areas the cliffs were so steep that trees could not grow, and metal rails held trekkers on the trail. We had not initially intended to hike the entire peninsula, but we were so enjoying ourselves that we found ourselves out at the end of the trail before long. A park bench situated in the gravel clearing provided a nice spot for a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and an inquisitive squirrel provided entertainment in excess of the tremendous views out to sea we had from this cliff-top vantage point. Looking back east, the main coast looked so far away it was as if we had boarded a giant ship that was just heaving to. Below us, the ocean currents could be discerned by the change in water color, and the giant dark blue arcs swept out to the horizon as if ships had passed by and we were watching their wakes. The peninsula did not in fact end at this point, but the designers of the trail did not construct any convenient path to go further. Behind the park bench, thick shrubs barred easy passage, and a fence bounded the other half of the clearing on the cliffside.  We sat enjoying ourselves for 20 minutes until we heard approaching voices, and decided it was too small a place to pack too many people, and began walking back. 

The walk back seemed to take longer than the walk in, perhaps because it was not nearly so amazing to see the trail a second time. Many more people were on the trail, and I wondered how popular this place would be in the summer. In an hour and a half, give or take, we were back at the car. 

Cape Lookout, Oregon
Cape Lookout, Oregon
Cape Lookout, Oregon
Cape Lookout, Oregon

Cape Lookout, Oregon
Cape Lookout, Oregon

August 12, 2007
Andra and I returned to Cape Lookout on a cloudy summer morning, giving us the chance to see the trail under wet, cloudy conditions. The fog hung in the spruce forest, highlighting depth, and bringing out the colors that had been muted in the shadows of our former trip. We only hiked about halfway to the end of the cape because of a fairly heavy and steady rain.


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Photographic prints of this area available through Landscape Imagery Nature Photography

Page created 2-05-06
Updated 1-19-08