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Cape Lookout Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View of Cape Lookout from the south (cfm)
Grey whale navigating around the tip of the cape (cfm)
Looking southward toward the beach (Steve Hart)
Spruce trees in the fog (Steve Hart)
The hike to Cape Lookout (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Cape Lookout TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cape Lookout
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 5.0 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 930 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, but the trail is near steep cliffs at the end of the hike
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Sometimes


Hike Description

Cape Lookout is the best spot on the coast for whale watching (without getting in a boat). As the migrating gray whales parallel the shoreline in fall and spring, they need to detour around this two-mile long peninsula, the remains of an ancient lava flow from the Columbia River Basalts of the Miocene epoch. There are views south and north along long stretches of beach and the highest cliffs on the Cape tower more than 800 feet. You be hiking through lush, wet (and muddy) coast forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, salad, and large leathery polypody ferns. In addition to the possibility of spotting gray whales during their migration periods, there a good chance of seeing sea lions, seals, and various seabirds, such as murres, pelicans, scoters, and gulls. Orcas and dolphins have also been seen from Cape Lookout.

Start at the Cape Lookout Trailhead and hike westward through a lush old-growth forest. At a trail junction a few feet from the lot, continue straight ahead. The massive trees here are Sitka Spruce, whose thick limbs are laden with moss and huge primeval ferns. These northwest maritime trees grow only in a narrow strip on the Pacific coast from Alaska to southern Oregon.

The trail is slightly downhill, and often muddy with occasional boardwalks to span the worst sections. After about half of a mile of hiking, you will come out of the trees for a view south near the site of a B-17 bomber that crashed here in 1943. There are reports that some of the plane fuselage is still present in the area, but the underbrush is so impenetrable, it would be very difficult to find. A plaque set in a boulder along the trail records the event. You will re-enter the forest for most of the remainder of the hike until you emerge near the tip of the cape. Hold onto the little ones when you come out of the trees, as you will be walking along the sheer southern cliffs that plunge almost straight down into the ocean 400 feet below. There is a bench and an open area at the tip for enjoying your perch. Return the way you came.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • Beer Hiking: Pacific Northwest by Rachel Wood & Brandon Fralic
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Hiking Oregon by Donna Lynn Ikenberry
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • Portland HIkes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

More Links


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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.