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Difference between revisions of "Cape Lookout North Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

(Correct map title)
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=== Guidebooks that cover this hike ===
=== Guidebooks that cover this hike ===
* ''25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast'' by Adam Sawyer
* ''100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range'' by William L. Sullivan
* ''100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range'' by William L. Sullivan
* ''I Heart Oregon (& Washington)'' by Lisa D. Holmes
* ''I Heart Oregon (& Washington)'' by Lisa D. Holmes

Revision as of 22:07, 17 July 2018

View north along the trail (cfm)
Footbridge over Cape Creek (bobcat)
Sori on leathery polypody frond (bobcat)
View back to South Beach from the Cape Trail (bobcat)
At the end of the Cape (bobcat)
The hike described shown in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Cape Lookout Day Use TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cape Lookout
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 9.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 2340 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes (older kids)
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No (North Trail); Yes (Cape Trail)


Hike Description

This great coastal headland hike with lots of ups and downs begins at the day use area for Cape Lookout State Park. Rise through lush Sitka Spruce and western hemlock forest to the Cape Lookout Trailhead and then head west along the Cape Trail above steep slopes to the cliff top viewpoint at the end of this jutting lava headland. Here, on a good day, you can view ocean life in abundance: gray whales in migration, sea lions, and pelagic birds. You may also do this hike as a split by beginning at the Cape Lookout Trailhead, the main advantage to this being that you will thus avoid the day use fee.

From the parking area, walk back towards the beach and go left. There’s a map of the trail system, and the Dick Winsor Memorial, in honor of a former park superintendent, gives details about Cape Lookout State Park. Here get views to Cape Lookout and Sphinx Island. Follow the sign for the North Trail under tall Sitka spruce. The trail is a gravel tread on a maintenance track that veers right to cross a creek over a footbridge. Continue on the maintenance track up through salal thickets to a junction, where the trail goes right (Left would be down to Cape Lookout's South Beach).

Cross a small creek and drop slightly to a junction. A trail leads right to the beach, but to continue head up to the left and switchback up to get a good view of Cape Lookout. Make three more switchbacks up before rising under an alder arbor to a make a short, steep ascent alongside a small creek before traversing along the steep slope to gives views north to Netarts Spit, Oceanside, and Three Arch Rocks. The woods are composed of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, red alder, sword fern, deer fern, salal, and salmonberry. Leathery polypody festoons the spruce. This higher trail is a new route: the old route traversed lower down and gave good views of Sphinx Island. However, that slope is sliding into the ocean in places. Cross a couple of small creeks as the trail rises. At a junction with a spur that leads up to the highway, go right and down. The trail drops to a log bridge over Cape Creek. Head up and switchback three times. The trail makes a traverse under large Sitka spruce and switchbacks up in a salmonberry/sword fern thicket. The trail switchbacks again and reaches the parking lot for the Cape Lookout Trailhead off the Three Capes Scenic Route. There’s a big map sign here.

Go right on the Cape Trail. It drops to the junction with the South Trail. The path continues to drop gradually among lichen-draped Sitka spruce, salmonberry, salal, sword fern, evergreen huckleberry, and red huckleberry. There are views south to Sand Lake, Cape Kiwanda, Cascade Head and Cape Foulweather. Pass the memorial plaque to the airmen killed in the WWII B-17 crash. There are wood palettes placed in muddy sections of the trail. The trail keeps dropping. There are also short boardwalks. Make two short switchbacks down, and then walk along a boardwalk to a saddle. It’s especially muddy down here. The trail heads up and there’s a view north to Maxwell Point and Cape Meares. Head up a stepped boardwalk and then undulate along. From an opening, there are more great views to the south. There’s another boardwalk and the trail drops through salal/evergreen huckleberry thickets. Drop again on more boardwalks and then switchback up along the south side of the cape. The slopes drop almost vertically to the sea and are cloaked with hairy manzanita and kinnikinnick. Now the path drops gradually to the cabled-off viewpoint at the tip of Cape Lookout. Scan the ocean here for gray whales during migration time. You may see sea lions lollygagging below in the swells and seabirds abound.

There’s a fisherman’s trail that leads steeply down to a rock bench at the base of the cape. Don't take it unless you are very comfortable with negotiating exposure.


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • $5 state park day use fee

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 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.

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.