Emily Mandagie on the Oregon Coast

The Ultimate Guide To Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Do you love sunsets, scenic Oregon coast ocean views, and PNW icons like lighthouses and whales? We’ve got the perfect adventure stop for you. Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint!

If you’re wondering if Cape Meares is worth visiting, the answer is YES! Keep reading this guide to discover what to do, how to get here, and all the reasons to explore this incredible Oregon coast state park.

Emily Mandagie on the Oregon Coast
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The Ultimate Guide To Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Just a heads up: We use Cape Meares State Park and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint interchangeably in this post. The correct name is Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint but it is common to hear both!

Views of the Oregon Coast - TheMandagies.com

Where is Cape Meares?

This gorgeous Oregon state park is located on the southern end of Tillamook Bay on the Northern Oregon Coast.

It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Cannon Beach (50 ish miles). This area is also one of the coolest day trips from Portland if you want to see the ocean with fewer crowds.

It’s a little tricky to get to: you’ll have to go around the bay through the town of Tillamook, and the back up the coast to reach it!

Where to Stay near Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

If you plan to stay overnight near Cape Meares State Park, you’re in luck. There are quite a few perfect vacation homes and small bed & breakfasts, perfect for an Oregon Coast getaway.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • **Large Ocean view Home with Four Decks** – This gorgeous guest house with ocean views has free cancellation, a full kitchen, and is close to the beach. It hosts up to 14 guests, making it a perfect beachside house for family getaways. (Rates start at $260/night)
  • **Edelweiss Beach Chalet** – Perfect for honeymooners, this gorgeous property has free parking, a hot tub, a wraparound deck, and easy access to the beach. (Rates start at $265/night)
  • **Updated Oceanfront Studio (Dogs Welcome!)** – For the budget traveler, this updated condo has everything you need: close access to trails, pet-friendly, and an expansive communal deck. (Rates start at $87/night)

Drive The Three Capes Scenic Loop

If you’re looking for an easy and stunning drive to do on the Oregon Coast, look no further than the Three Capes Scenic Loop!

This 40-mile casual driving route takes you between three of the North Coast’s most scenic capes: Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda.

It’s an easy morning trip on the Oregon Coast, but you can really make it an all-day adventure by stopping and hiking along the way.

Why is Cape Meares Loop closed?

While it’s still called a scenic “loop” it’s currently an out-and-back drive due to landslides and flooding. The connecting loop road is being restored in 2023, so we’ll update this post when we have new information on the Cape Meares road closure!

Things To Do At Cape Meares State Park

Close up of Cape Meares Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast - TheMandagies.com

See Cape Meares Lighthouse

Okay, visiting the lighthouse is a MUST when stopping here!

It’s the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, just 38 feet tall! However, the building sits 217 feet above sea level so ships on the Pacific Coast can easily see its light from 21 miles away!

The lighthouse interior and gift shop are closed for the winter season but are generally open from April to October. Admittance inside is free, but the tower is permanently closed to protect the historic Fresnel Lens.

For the most updated information about lighthouse access, check out the contact information on the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse site.

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint at Sunset

Watch the Sunset at Cape Meares

If you are staying overnight in Oceanside (which we totally recommend, it’s gorgeous) then a sunset trip to Cape Meares is a must.

There are several scenic viewpoints to discover around the headlands. Because of its location, this park doesn’t get a ton of traffic, so it’s likely you’ll only be sharing the area with only a few others.

Cape Meares Whale Watching Destinatioon

Whale Watching and Wildlife at Cape Meares

Do NOT forget your pair of binoculars when visiting here! The Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge hugs the edge of the scenic viewpoint area, to the north and east of the lighthouse.

With panoramic views of the ocean, nature lovers can view tons of offshore rocks (like Pillar Rock and Pyramid Rock, Rogue Reef, Shell Island, and Three Arch Rocks) and the cliffside with their inhabitants.

In the spring, you can spot Peregrine Falcons nesting and raising their young on the cliff edges. You can also spot Harbor seals on the beaches or reefs, but remember to keep a distance from them!

In summer, the area is bursting with noise and commotion from new babies and families. Stellar Sea Lions and seabirds can be spotted offshore sunning themselves n rocks.

In the fall, winter migrants start showing up at the rocks and cliffs of Cape Meares. Look for bird species like scoters, goldeneyes, buffleheads, loons, and Harlequin Ducks.

Winter is the most popular time to spot wildlife, as it’s the whale-watching season! Migrants like gray whales, humpback whales, and orcas can be spotted between December and March. There are also some resident pods of gray whales that remain near the Oregon coast all year long.

Hiking Trails at Cape Meares State Park

Here, the hiking opportunities are short and sweet. They are perfect for families or people who simply want to wander and soak up all the views. Here are some of our favorite hikes at Cape Meares:

Cape Meares Octopus Tree

Octopus Tree Trail

If you’re coming with your family, you’ve got to do this iconic hiking trail! The Octopus Tree is a 250-year-old Sitka Spruce tree, with one main trunk but several huge trunks sprouting from its center.

We don’t have an explanation if this was nature or if the tree was formed this was on purpose, but regardless it’s quite a sight to see!

The trail is wide, clear, and only 0.3 miles, making it an easy way to stretch your legs after some time in the car. Don’t forget to walk towards the viewpoint at the end of the trail for some incredible views!

Read More: 26 jaw-dropping Oregon Coast hikes to put on your bucket list

Cape Meares Lighthouse - TheMandagies.com

Cape Meares Lighthouse

One of the simplest and most direct hiking trails in Cape Meares is the path to the lighthouse. It’s only 0.2 miles from the parking lot, with a wide paved path right to the cliff’s edge.

Stop occasionally at the viewpoints, where you can get different perspectives of the Oregon coast and its beauty!

From here, return where you came from or make it a loop trail by following the south side of the ridge trail for different viewpoints.

Big Spruce Trail

The trail to this Big Spruce is short and sweet, only 0.3 miles. Park at the entrance of the park off Cape Meares Loop Road to start the trail.

This giant Sitka Spruce tree is the largest in Oregon, towering at 144 feet tall and 48 feet around the base. It’s said to be around 800 years old!

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Cape Meares Beach Trail

The trail to Cape Meares Beach is the longest in the park, at 1.5 miles. It’s an incredibly popular trail for bird watchers, plant identifiers, and photographers who are trying to capture the coast’s stunning beauty.

Start at the main parking lot, or shave off a little bit of distance by parking at the lot at the entrance of the park. From here, expect steep switchbacks, and be careful of muddy trails, especially in the winter and spring. In the end, you will reach Cape Meares Beach and Cape Meares Lake.

Berty Mandagie's shoes at Cape Meares, Oregon

Things To Do Nearby Cape Meares

So, what can you do around the area? If you’re adding this as just one stop on your Oregon Coast road trip, consider these nearby adventures for your itinerary too:

Oceanside, Oregon

Oceanside is the darling small town that you pass as you make your way to the scenic viewpoints.

Stay overnight here at some incredible vacation homes! You can also explore Oceanside Beach Trail and Short Beach Trail right at Oceanside Beach State Recreation Site. During low tide at the northernmost point of the beach, look for a tunnel to arrive at Tunnel Beach.

Tillamook, Oregon

Tillamook is the largest populated town in the area (5,000 residents) with a cute downtown strip, grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas. It’s also home to the famous Tillamook Creamery, which is a must-see stop on the Oregon Coast!

Read More: 25 Oregon Coast Towns You Won’t Be Able To Resist

Pacific City, Oregon

Pacific City is a 45-minute drive away, and a perfect place to stay overnight. There are a ton of activities to do here, including exploring the dune at Cape Kiwanda, ATV riding and Sand Lakes, and beach walking at Bob Straub State Park.

Cape Meares Map

Looking for a visual representation of where everything is? Here is a map of Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, courtesy of Oregon State Parks.

Cape Meares Map
Image courtesy of Oregon State Parks

FAQs about Cape Meares

What is Cape Meares weather like?

The weather at Cape Meares is like the rest of the Northern Oregon Coast – mild and cloudy. We find that the weather is calmest in the fall (when we visited!) and stormy and windy in the winter.

Bring a windbreaker or rain jacket, and expect some blustery wind when you visit! (We got super, super lucky on our last trip here – it was sunny, clear, and calm!)

Read More: 35 Essential Items For Your Oregon Coast Packing List

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Can you drive to Cape Meares Lighthouse?

Almost! There is a very short, paved trail to get to the lighthouse. Scroll up again through this blog post to get more trail details.

Are there Cape Meares camping areas?

No, there are no campsites in the park. It’s a day-use-only area! The closest campground is the Cape Lookout State Park campground, which is about 20 minutes away.

If you’re looking for other campgrounds along the way, check out our complete guide to Oregon Coast campgrounds!

OTHER OREGON COAST ADVENTURES

31 Incredible Adventures on the Oregon Coast in Winter

7 Oregon Coast Beaches That Allow Bonfires

The Perfect Weekend Itinerary in Pacific City

16 Incredible Oregon Coast Tide Pools To Explore

The 25 Best Beaches In Oregon

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