Oregon Coast Landmarks: the Beginnings of the Three Capes Loop
(Pacific City, Oregon) – Where Highway 101 darts inland for awhile, zipping past Hebo, Tillamook and Bay City, you have to veer west onto the Three Capes Loop to hit the beaches. And what a set of beaches they are. 25 miles of rough, fairly untouched to very hidden spots occupy this route, and the first few miles of it are chock full of oceanic, awe-inspiring marvels (above: Tierra Del Mar).
In many ways, the Three Capes Loop begins about three miles south of its official designation. A tad after Neskowin, along Highway 101, there's a very secretive spot called Winema Beach. It's hidden along a road called Winema that darts off into the vast hill sitting between you and any hint of an ocean view – and if you blink you'll miss it.
Once down here, it's a small wonderland of incredible and untouched beach, where a myriad of fascinating and odd rock structures sit embedded in the cliffs. At its very most northern point, you'll dead-end at the southern side of the Nestucca River – really a very rare find in many ways.
Then onto Pacific City itself, and of course the first big discovery is Haystack Rock. The seastack is actually taller than the more famous Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. Pacific City's is 340 feet high, while Cannon Beach's stack is 235.
The beach here goes on for miles, including down the Nestucca Spit, towards the secretive Winema Beach.
The headland known as Cape Kiwanda is an endless array of wonders and wowing aspects. Hike up to the top of the sand dune and then slide down on a board, or even rougher still simply let your body roll down on its own – as some braver souls do.
The northern side of Cape Kiwanda is a bit of a rarity to see, as it's a wild and strenuous hike through hard-to-traverse soft sand. But catch its more intricate structures at the right moment and the sunlight fires up the cliffs to a burning orange and the seas become a translucent blue.
Head a bit north and you'll soon run into the hand gliding hotspot of Tierra Del Mar. As you head northward, towards Cape Lookout, you rise above everything and a stunning vista emerges before you (as seen at the top photo).
Down on the ground, Tierra Del Mar – really a village consisting of a handful of homes – is a long stretch of engaging sands where plenty of interesting things can be found. You have to deal with cars driving on the beach here, however, which is not pleasant.
Another couple of miles to the north and you'll encounter Whalen Island State Park, with its salt water flats and beautiful lake surrounding the forested dab of ground.
From here, you'll find Sand Lake Recreation Area, famous for its ATV's and massive sand dunes, more lakes for fishing, and there's camping here as well. Just north of here you'll run into Cape Lookout itself.
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