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Sand Lake-Cape Kiwanda Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Cape Kiwanda's Great Dune and Haystack Rock, Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area (bobcat)
Investigating a large squid, Tierra del Mar (bobcat)
Sand Lake Lagoon (bobcat)
Looking north to Miles Creek Point and Cape Lookout, Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area (bobcat)
Kiwanda Beach hike at Tierra del Mar (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Tierra del Mar TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End points: Sand Lake Estuary and the Great Dune
  • Hike type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 240 feet
  • High point: 220 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On sunny summer days


Hike Description

This beach hike fronts the coastal community of Tierra del Mar. You will walk north and then south on the sand, heading first to the Sand Lake Estuary and getting excellent views of Cape Lookout along the way. (Stay on the wet sand - north of emergency locator number 34B - from March 15th to September 15th, snowy plover nesting season.) Then head south into Cape Kiwanda State Park (the beach is narrow here and you need to round a point that cuts you off at high tide) to slog up to the top of Cape Kiwanda's Great Dune for views of Haystack Rock and Kiwanda's sandstone headland.

The parking area gives beach access for people and cars at the north end of Cape Kiwanda State Park. Walk north past the sign that says No Motor Vehicles. It’s 2.1 miles to the point. Cape Lookout juts out two miles into the Pacific ahead. Behind you, Cape Kiwanda is the prominent promontory. Amble along in somewhat soft sand with the beach homes of Tierra del Mar to your right. Past the homes is a dune line stabilized by dune grass. It backs some brackish fingers of marsh in the lowlands south of Sand Lake. You may step over heaps of giant kelp knotted up on the sand. Little squads of sanderlings, with a dunlin or two mixed in during the winter months, scuttle along the shore, following the wave retreats to stab into the sand for snacks. Look for the little white shells of mole crabs littering the shore. Surf scoters in small groups duck into the breakers. The beach becomes wider at its north end. Notice the stunted shore pines and Sitka spruce in the dunes. Note that the northern end of the spit is a snowy plover nesting area: Between March 15th and September 15th, you can hike on the wet sand only and dogs are not permitted at all during this time. The southern boundary of the nesting area is at emergency locator number 34B. Here, a trail heads in to the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, a new Oregon state park opened in June 2018 with a trail system of its own (see the Sitka Sedge Loop Hike)]. As you near the end of the spit which encloses the Sand Lake Estuary, you will probably hear ORV noise from the Siuslaw National Forest's Sand Lake Recreation Area across the bay mouth. Then you’re at the wide sandy expanse of the point and looking east to the tidal flats of the Sand Lake lagoon. Sand Lake is one of only two major natural estuaries on the Oregon coast. Whalen Island is across the bay to the west (see the Whalen Island Loop Hike).

Walk back along the beach. At low tide, you can walk on the harder wet sand below the high tide line. Pass the northern boundary of Cape Kiwanda State Park. From here, it’s 1.8 miles on McPhillips Beach to the base of Cape Kiwanda. Cars are permitted to drive on this section of the beach. You can see Sandlake Road curving up the hill on its way to Pacific City. The base of this hill is also the high tide mark on this section of the beach, so it is not walkable all the time. Many rivulets stream across the beach from the hill. Pass low cliffs of colorful mudstone embedded with thin layers of harder rock. Shore pines, Sitka spruce and salal cloak the hillside. Come to the promontory of Miles Creek Point that juts out into the waves. At very low tide, you should be able to walk around its point, but at higher water, you have to scramble up a slippery mudstone notch and drop down to the other side. Here, there is a wave-cut platform and a beach of cobbles where Miles Creek streams down to meet the ocean. Cars can access the beach here, too, and Cape Kiwanda is just ahead. Haystack Rock rears from the waves. Cross a driftwood choked creek, and continue south along the beach towards the Great Dune and the contorted sandstone headland at the cape. Reaching the dune's base, slog up to a sandy saddle, and then head up to its summit at a Sitka spruce skeleton. The views north and south from here are commanding. Walking west along the dune's summit ridge, get an excellent view of Haystack Rock. You can slide down the slope to explore the Cape Kiwanda headland, described in the Cape Kiwanda Hike.

If you get cut off by high tide on the way back, you'll have to return to Tierra del Mar via Sandlake Road.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Oregon Coast North #356SX

Fees, Regulations, Facilities, etc.

  • No Parking from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
  • Port-a-potties at trailhead
  • Dogs on leash in state park area (south of the trailhead)
  • Cars on the beach in south portion of the hike
  • The north end of the hike is a snowy plover nesting area: Stay on the wet sand between March 15th and September 15th.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail by Bonnie Henderson
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • 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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