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Cascade Head Lower Viewpoint

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View south down the coast(Steve Hart)
Hairy checkermallow. (Steve Hart)
Common Catchfly (Steve Hart)
Looking west to the Pacific. (Steve Hart)


Cascade Head is a large volcanic bluff extending into the Pacific Ocean. It creates a rare environment known as the coastal headland salt-spray meadow. The wind here and the shallow soil make it difficult for trees to survive. In the past, Native American peoples sometimes used proscribed burning to keep the meadows free of encroaching forests. The views are tremendous to the south. The Salmon River Estuary dominates an ocean view that extends to Lincoln City.

The Cascade Head Trail enters near the bottom of the meadow. There's a small oasis of trees in a draw, and then the trail again hits the open slopes. The route traverses along the ridge at about the 500 foot level, finally coming to this viewpoint, where you can see down a cliff to the Pacific Ocean.

The views are always there for the taking, but be sure to look at the foreground, as well. Cascade Head is home to two endangered flowering plants. The first is the Cascade Head catchfly. Only 1200 of all these plants exist in the world and 1000 of them are located right here on the slope. The plant typically branches below the ground creating a tight bunch of leafy stems with distinctive very light pink flowers in late April and May. The flowers have five petals. The hairy checkermallow has a long hairy looking flower stem that ends in a sphere of bright pink flowers.

The real prize in this hands off, look at them only scavenger hunt is the Oregon silverspot butterfly. These brown and orange butterflies are found in only five places in the world and this is one of the most important. The life cycle of the silverspot starts in September when the eggs hatch. The larvae move short distances to their dedicated host plant, the early blue violet, Viola adunca. The larvae spend the winter in a dormant state,and then become active in the spring, feeding on the violet leaves. After five molts, the larvae enter a pupate stage in June and begin to emerge as adult butterflies in July. They leave the windy, open environment and move to the forest, feeding on yarrow, Canadian goldenrod and Douglas aster. You'll know the silverspot by the bright metallic silver spots on the bottom of their wings. The top of their wings are orange with black veins and spots. Mating takes place in August and September, and the females return to the windy headlands to lay 200 or more eggs near violet plants.

The early blue violets aren't as rare as the catchfly or checkermallow, but modern development and invasive species have created a scarcity of violets on coastal headlands. As the violet population dwindles, so does the butterfly population. Please don't pick any flowers or disturb any plants during your visit here. Stay on the trail at all times. In the battle to preserve rare species, this is holy ground.

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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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