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Cape Perpetua Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Good Fortune Cove, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
Thrift (Armeria maritima), Captain Cook Trail, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
Cape Creek, Giant Spruce Trail, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
Seashore paintbrush (Castilleja litoralis), St. Perpetua Trail, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
View to Captain Cook Point, St. Perpetua Trail, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
Posing at the Giant Spruce, Cape Perpetua (bobcat)
The trails at Cape Perpetua in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Cape Perpetua TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cape Perpetua Stone Shelter
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and outs + short loops
  • Distance: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet
  • High Point: 820 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

The Siuslaw National Forest's Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is one of the jewels of the central Oregon coast. The rugged lava headland, an oceanic shield volcano, is much more than a landscape of rock meeting ocean. There are pocket beaches, tide pools, blowholes, a lush creek, old growth Sitka spruce, and wildflower meadows. Fingers of weathered lava jut into the surf at sea level and, from a historic stone shelter at 745 feet, you can look out on the whole vista. A network of trails leads through here, and you need to give yourself time to do them all. While you can drive to other trailheads in the Scenic Area, plan to be here on a balmy day and take your time.

Walk down past the Visitor Center on a paved trail. Tall Sitka spruce shade salal and thimbleberry thickets. Pass the site of an old CCC camp with only the foundation remaining. At a junction, keep straight and then go through a tunnel under the highway. At another junction, go left for the Spouting Horn on the Captain Cook Trail. The trail heads into a salal thicket where cow parsnip blooms in late spring. At the next junction, make a left to begin the loop. The trail heads up into a dark spruce thicket. Bear right at the next junction (left is up to the highway), and switchback down to an overlook over the Spouting Horn near Cooks Chasm (The horn spouts best from its blowhole at high tide). Steps lead down the bluff to the rocks whence you can hop and skip towards the tide pools around Good Fortune Cove, another narrow inlet. Look for Thor's Well on these rock platforms: this is another collapsed sea cave, about 20 feet deep, that fills with high tide surges and seems to erupt. After Memorial Day, rangers are on hand to explain the chitons, urchins and other denizens of the tide pools. The best pools are closest to the crashing surf where the rocks form a volcanic shelf above the ocean surges. Pick up a trail heading up from the rocks and reach the loop at a footbridge. Go left past a sign explaining shell middens at an overlook and then pass through a salal/cow parsnip thicket to reach the highway tunnel again.

Don't enter the tunnel, but keep straight on the Cape Cove Trail going towards the Devils Churn. Cross a footbridge over a deep chasm and reach a parking area. A spur leads to a viewpoint. The trail keeps next to the highway until you reach another pullout area, from where it leads down under a contorted old spruce with views of Cape Cove Beach below. Switchbacking down, meet a junction with a spur leading down to the beach. Keep straight to cross Cape Creek and then head along a shady slope under spruces and blooming with false lily-of-the-valley. At a junction, come to the Trail of the Restless Waters Loop, the trail right leading 0.2 miles up to a parking area. Keep straight and head up around the bluff to the Devils Churn overlook. This is a narrow chasm that would look more spectacular on a stormy day. Steep stairs switchback down to the lava rock. Head up from here to a parking area and information window with a seasonal espresso stand. There’s another overlook to the Devils Churn from here. The loop heads down from the espresso stand and switchbacks to the Cape Cove Trail. Return under the tunnel and back up to the Visitor Center.

A trail leads down between the Visitor Center and the restrooms in a salal thicket and shaded by Sitka spruce. Pass a large spruce and then the trail heads upstream along Cape Creek in a lush, green wonderland. Come to the junction with the St. Perpetua Trail and continue straight here on the Giant Spruce Trail. Keep hiking up Cape Creek in a leafy paradise under a canopy of alders: spring blooms include angle-leaf bitter cress, bleeding heart, and solomon plume. The Cape Perpetua Campground is across the creek. Pass one bridge to the campground and then another bridge leading left to the group camp parking area. The trail rises over a footbridge among some big trees to reach the Giant Spruce of Cape Perpetua: 40 feet around, 185 feet high, and over 550 years old. This ancient giant actually sprouted on a nurse log and stands on its roots, forming a small grotto. Take the trail back to the first junction, and go right over a footbridge to the end of the campground road. The trail continues up above a campsite and descends to restrooms. You can walk back down the campground road and pick up the St. Perpetua Trail heading uphill (If you reach the campground host, you've gone 50 yards too far).

Soon cross FR 55, which takes cars all the way up to the lookout. Ascend into spruce/hemlock/elderberry woods and switchback three times to an open area on the ridge spine under powerlines. Then, switchback up some steps hewn in the rock. There are a couple more short switchbacks up the ridge and then you are rewarded with a vista over the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Four more switchbacks take you past some large spruce in the shady woods and then out on a blue, lupine bedazzled (in the late spring) slope below the overlook. Two more switchbacks take you back to the lupine meadow again. Make two more short switchbacks to reach a meadow where seaside paintbrush, camas, monkey flower and baby stars also bloom in the spring. From here, traverse across the meadow on the south side of the hill and switchback up to the viewpoint.

The Whispering Spruce Trail take you to the Cape Perpetua Stone Shelter, built by the CCC in the 1930s, which offers magnificent vistas over the rugged cape and a 70-miles section of the coastline from north to south. On a crystal clear day, you can see 40 miles out to sea; a good pair of binoculars is an asset here during whale watching season. After enjoying the views, reenter coastal forest and pass the junction with Amanda's Trail before returning to the access road. Walk back to the Whispering Spruce Trailhead and find the St. Perpetua Trail leading down the steep slope to the campground and back to the Cape Perpetua Trailhead.

  • Cape Perpetua was named on March 7th, 1778, by Captain James Cook during his quest for the Northwest Passage. March 7th is St. Perpetua's Day: Perpetua was a young Carthaginian Christian who was martyred around 203 AD for her beliefs.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Cape Perpetua Scenic Area Map (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Cummins Creek Wilderness, Drift Creek Wilderness, Rock Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Siuslaw National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required or $5 per vehicle
  • Dogs on leash
  • Visitor Center, campground, restrooms, interpretive signs, picnic tables

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Oregon's North Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Hiking Oregon by Donna Lynn Ikenberry
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • 75 Hikes in Oregon's Coast Range and Siskiyous by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon Coast Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon’s Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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