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Depoe Bay Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Sandstone fingers, Depoe Bay Headland (bobcat)
Looking under the 101 Bridge to the harbor, Depoe Bay (bobcat)
Spouting Horn, Depoe Bay (bobcat)
Picnic bench and shore pines, Depoe Bay Scenic Park (bobcat)
Remains of Arch Rock, Depoe Bay (bobcat)
Striped cliffs, Arch Rock Cove, Depoe Bay (bobcat)
The walk along the seawall and headland at Depoe Bay (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Depoe Bay TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pirate Cove Viewpoint
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 60 feet
  • High Point: 55 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, along the seawall


Hike Description

South of Lincoln City, the small city of Depoe Bay is squeezed between the hills and the lava ocean front of a small bay. A narrow channel leads in from the bay to the world’s smallest navigable harbor. A walk along the sea wall here allows you to view the pillow lavas that protect the harbor and wait for the frequent eruptions of a spouting horn. You can also take in the sandstone formations on the headland to the north and let yourself down by rope to a pocket beach. A short trail takes you around the ocean face of the headland to get views of Pirate Cove.

Depoe Bay is named for “Depot” Charley, a Tututni (Lower Rogue River) Indian whose family was forcibly removed north to the vast Coast Indian Reservation, now the much-reduced Siletz Indian Reservation; Charley had been allotted the land that is now the site of the town.

Take the steps down to the Whale Watching Center at the south end of the seawall, just before the Highway 101 bridge. There’s a viewing platform just to the left of the center which overlooks the channel into Depoe Bay Harbor, billed as the world’s smallest harbor. The tight chasm here is also the outlet for Depoe Bay Creek and was a deep and narrow gorge during the last ice age, when sea levels were much lower. Incoming vessels “shoot the hole” to reach the harbor. The single-span Conde McCullough bridge takes Highway 101 over the gap. The Whale Watching Center itself is a state park, and volunteers are here at the peak time of gray whale migrations: mid-December to mid-January, when up to 60,000 whales migrate south to waters off Baja California; and the prolonged spring migration, from late March to June. A resident pod of the whales can often be seen in the bay from spring into fall. The building itself is open more reliably in the summer: there are exhibits and explanations inside.

Keep walking up the sidewalk along the seawall. Below you are dark pillow lavas from the Grand Ronde member of the Columbia River Basalt flows (17 to 15.6 million years ago), the same flows that form the walls of the rugged canyons at Silver Falls State Park. Gulls, black oystercatchers, and even ground squirrels (!) can often be seen. A chasm below funnels the surging surf to rise up the seawall and scatter spray onto the highway. Next, you can look down and see another feature of this lava platform: a spouting horn. Waves funnel up a narrow crack and then issue a fountain of spray from a hole in the rock: the bigger and more forceful the wave, the higher the spout. Looking north across Depoe Bay, you’ll see the deeply eroded colorful sandstone “fingers” of a headland, the destination for this hike.

Keep walking past a gray whale statue and a memorial wall. Pass wooden stairs leading down to a pocket park: the wall here is made of timbers salvaged from Depoe Bay Harbor, which was damaged by the tsunami that resulted from the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in northern Japan. After the next building, you’ll see a trail leading down to the first section of Depoe Bay Scenic Park with its picnic tables shaded by shore pines. There is a rough path to the lava shore here. Past the Tidal Raves Restaurant, there’s another section of the park that offers closer views of the sandstone fingers at the headland. The first finger has a stack that used to be one foot of a natural arch.

Continuing on, you’ll come to a lone Sitka spruce with a rope attached. In fact, several sections of rope allow you to lower yourself down a slippery path through the salal to a pocket beach near the former natural arch. The low cliffs here are stained by iron and algae. Back at the highway, it’s a few yards more to Sunset Street, where you need to make a left. Walk along Sunset to its junction with Alsea Avenue. Here, you’ll see a stone carved with the words ‘Depoe Bay Scenic View Area.’

Go left on a chip trail for the first view across Depoe Bay and down to a sandstone platform. Then return to the corner of Sunset and Alsea to go left out through the salal to a trail that leads left and right along the headland. To the left, you’ll come to a lava headland that protects the softer sandstone on the north side of the bay. The trail leads north across a grassy expanse, offering views out to the ocean before reaching the Pirate Cove Viewpoint on a 40-foot cliff. Pirate Cove is another sandstone inlet protected by lava ‘gates’ on either side. An expanse of frothy foam often collects in the middle of the cove during times of rough seas. Harbor seals will haul out on sandstone benches below the vast Whale Pointe Resort at the Depoe Bay vacation apartment complex.

From the viewpoint, you can hike up a short set of steps to Vista Street, which will take you out to Highway 101. From here, go left to walk back to your car: if you want to explore salt water taffy shops and coastal kitsch, take the sidewalk on the east side of the highway.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Respect all private property signs
  • Port-a-potty at the Whale Watching Center
  • Picnic tables at Depoe Bay Scenic Park

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.

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