Complete Guide to Cannon Beach, on the Oregon
Beach, Oregon) - It's home to many artists on the coast, and a few national
celebrities have cabins nearby as well. It's an arty vibe that shows,
partially in the city council’s rule that most buildings be dressed
up in cedar shingles, giving the whole town a sense of the rustic yet
This artiness is also apparent in the abundance of quaint
businesses around Cannon Beach, from whimsical shops selling kites, clothes
and gifts, to its galleries, fine cuisine in a variety of price ranges
and the many flowerpots hanging everywhere. Some of the restaurants and
bars even have outdoor seating – a daring, if not very urban-thinking
move on the coast.
Next to Newport, Cannon Beach has the most outdoor restaurant
seating on the entire Oregon coast.
|Strange, rare sight: Haystack Rock covered in snow,
during 2007 storm (photo Seaside Aquarium)
Sure, it’s touristy in some ways and certainly packed
with tourists most of the time. But there’s a coziness and beauty
to this place that’s hard to forget.
There are annual festivals during the year that shouldn’t
be missed, including various kite festivals in summer, the Haystack arts
program and the grand sand sculpturing contest every June. In November,
Cannon Beach goes bonkers with the Stormy Weather Arts Festival, where
galleries, artists and musicians flood the town all weekend. There’s
a similar event in spring. Also in the fall, one of the hotels hosts a
massive a dog appreciation festival, with all sorts of wacky contests
This guide takes you north to south, beginning at Tillamook
Head. It takes you through almost every possible beach access and viewpoint,
from Cannon Beach’s downtown area, through famous beach spots like
Arcadia, Hug Point and Arch Cape, and deep into the forests and sands
of Oswald West State Park, its hiking possibilities, and the freaky hidden
spots you’ll find all along the way.
more details on Cannon Beach and tons of pictures, see the Cannon Beach
Virtual Tour, Map.
For tons of Cannon
Beach Lodging, click here.
It’s the vast, rugged headland that separates Seaside
from Cannon Beach, including a six-mile-long hike either way. But en route,
you’ll find incredible views of the ocean and Tillamook Head Lighthouse,
remnants of an old army bunker and some spots that made history because
of Lewis and Clark.
If you start on the Seaside side, take Avenue U to the
end, then follow Ocean Vista Way up the hill to the trailhead. The view
here is breathtaking as well.
This trail is notoriously slippery, so be sure to wear
boots. It ends up at Indian Beach, near Cannon Beach. About 4 miles down,
you’ll find the bunker, a primitive campsite and a view of the Pacific
and the lighthouse nearby that will knock your socks off. Along the way,
there’s a viewpoint noted by William Clark in his journals and so
For a shorter walk to the bunker, it’s only a 3.4-mile
roundtrip from Indian Beach.
This baby has captured the imaginations of tourists for
generations, starting back in 1880 when it was constructed.
From the beaches of either Cannon Beach or Seaside, you
can see this bit of history: the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, nicknamed
“Terrible Tilly.” This mysterious beauty lies about a mile
and a half offshore and was decommissioned in the 50’s. But during
its lifetime, it claimed many lives, especially during its construction.
Back then, the workers hopped on the treacherous basalt
rock by boat, which usually meant doing so in insane conditions. So many
died doing this and while constructing it that workers housed on shore
who were waiting to be put to work were cloistered from the locals, all
in an attempt to keep them from hearing how dangerous the work really
Storms frequently wrecked the lighthouse, sometimes sending
great boulders crashing into it. Those who occupied it in shifts lasting
several months sometimes went a little koo koo because of the solitude.
These days, it’s a wildlife refuge and a place that
holds urns of ashes of the deceased. It’s now run by an outfit called
“Eternity At Sea,” which maintains it and takes the reservations
for the urns. For
more on this Oregon lighthouse, you can purchase a video here.
This day-use area is just north of the city limits, after
a mile and a half drive through a thick forest - after the signs proclaiming
the park’s entrance.
The main section of the park is Ecola Point, where numerous
viewpoints offer you glimpses of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and the lighthouse.
It’s a popular spot for whale watching during the twice-yearly migrations.
|Closeup of hidden cove at right - with structure apparently built
There is also a trailhead leading over another bluff to
Indian Beach – another mile away.
The view shows off a bundle of hidden wonders, if you pay
close attention. Just below the cliffs is a rugged, forbidden cove, not
reachable by humans. Or is it? Sometimes, it appears as if someone has
boated over to that diminutive boulder-covered beach and built a small
Also visible from the cliffs is the secret Crescent Beach,
which is only accessible via a mile-long trail that begins along the road
going into Ecola State Park. This pristine little oddity features a clump
of prehistoric-looking sandstone and almost a quarter mile of deserted,
Gilligan’s Island-like fun.
At the northern end of Ecola State Park, another 1.5 miles
after the main part of the park, you'll find a crescent-shaped beach filled
with cobblestones, where a there's a lovely view of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
and where numerous rocky shapes stand and get slammed by large waves.
At the cove’s southernmost end, you can amble over some large boulders
and reach more rock slabs to sit on, perfect for watching the water rage
against other wedges that dare stand against it.
This rocky semi-circle is enclosed by two headland areas,
with maybe a quarter mile worth of walking area. Granted, it's mostly
covered with stones and doesn't have much in the way of flat sandy areas,
so it's not the best spot for lying around. But it is undeniably beautiful,
with a viewpoint and a picnic table sitting above its northern end.
At the parking lot for Indian Beach is the main trailhead
going over Tillamook Head. It’s another six miles to Seaside from
there (see Tillamook Head listing above.)
To get to Indian Beach, drive into Ecola State Park and
follow the signs.
|Famed Goonies Rock
Indian Beach is famous for its Hollywood connection. Parts
of the cult film "Goonies" was filmed here. The offshore rock
structure with the oval hole in it was used at the end of the film, and
is now called "Goonies Rock."
Les Shirley Park
You’ll find this quaint park at the north of the
bridge, next to Ecola Creek. Phones, restrooms and picnic tables are just
some of the amenities here.
But more importantly, it’s known as the southernmost
place visited by Lewis & Clark back in 1806. There’s a plaque
designating it as such. Also, you can access the beach and walk towards
Chapman Point, which houses the secretive Crescent Beach (which can be
seen from above on the cliffs of Ecola).
This one too neighbors Ecola Creek, but is on the other
side, part of downtown. It’s mostly a grassy spot with benches,
but there’s access to the beach here, with Haystack Rock a few minutes
It’s also the locale where William Clark saw natives
cutting up a whale for blubber.
|One of dozens of tiny beach accesses from side streets
Downtown Cannon Beach
Numerous beach accesses dot the downtown and midtown area.
One of the more interesting is at the end of 2nd, with a concrete wall
and viewing area where dozens line up on sunny days to witness the splash
and spectacle of the sunsets. It’s a short walk to the creek here.
Other little accesses are found along the small neighborhood
streets, where parking is a problem. It’s best to find a place along
the main drag, Hemlock.
the big recognizable landmark of Cannon Beach, and one of the most photographed
beach spots in the world – certainly in the state of Oregon, anyway.
It is actually the third largest monolith in the world. The main seastack
is called Haystack Rock (not to be confused with the Haystack Rock at
Pacific City, some 70 miles south), and the two accompanying rocks are
called the “needles.”
Head into “midtown” Cannon Beach and you’ll
find the shortest walk to these remarkable seastacks at the Ecola Beach
Ramp, just off Sunset Boulevard.
At low tide, Haystack is accessible and a lot of fun for
tide pool viewing. It’s famous for its plentiful marine gardens.
There’s even the Haystack Awareness Program, where naturalists hang
out around the rock on summer weekend mornings, showing off the area’s
points of interest to eager public eyes.
|Marine gardens at bottom of Haystack Rock
The main part of the rock is a bird refuge, so make sure
you pay attention to the signs telling where not to go.
An odd bit of local lore that some like to tell to uninitiated
newcomers is that Haystack was manmade. Usually, these folks are quite
drunk when they bring up with this weirdo tale – even if they don’t
show it. Watch for that tale if you’re hanging out at the local
Haystack Rock is a bit of a walk from the best-known access.
So locals have set up a small parking area on the east side of the street,
near a lengthy but convenient stairway that’s almost directly in
front of Haystack.
|Storm-stuffed handicap access at Tolovana
Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site
There’s yet another beach access here, which in many
ways doesn’t mean much – except that you can see Haystack
and its Needles from a different viewpoint. But what is notable here is
the nearby presence of several beautiful resort hotels, restaurants and
a slightly less density of crowds.
Wheelchair access to the beach is provided at this wayside.
During big winter storms, it’s often the recipient of major floods
of logs and debris, and thus completely unusable until the city gets a
chance to clear it away. In the meantime, it’s an interesting and
rather spooky reminder of the power of the sea.
You can still walk to Haystack Rock from here.
South Cannon Beach Park
You’ll find it at the southernmost end of the Tolovana
area, featuring picnic tables and a cannon replica.
There are more beach accesses south of the Tolovana area,
but they lie at the end of neighborhood streets occupied by a myriad of
private homes - so you'll want to be courteous and cautious when parking
|Interesting landmarks at the southern end of Cannon Beach
From these, you're perhaps a mile from Arcadia Beach, and
you can see that park's sea stacks from their northern side.
These accesses provide some of Cannon Beach’s most
interesting beach experiences, however. At this extreme southern end,
there are far less people than on the rest of the town’s buzzing
sands, even on days packed with tourists.
After this area, you can head south from town by
intersecting Highway 101 nearby.
After a few winding turns in the road and some forestland
that blocks the ocean view, you’ll come to a couple of pullouts
featuring dramatic views. The northern one is huge and comes in three
sections, allowing views north and south. The second one, only 3/10’s
of a mile away, provides beautiful views of interesting sea stacks offshore
and a sandy beach below.
Not far south of MP 32 – perhaps two miles from Cannon
Beach - this tree-smothered parking lot appears. Take the small path down
and you’ll find a sandy beach covered in cobblestones near the tide
line, as well as cliffs and rock structures that some have whimsically
claimed look like a dragon and its young turned to stone.
Walk this beach to find agates, and you may also hear the
legendary "singing sands." This is a rare phenomenon where,
under the right conditions, the sand makes squeaking or violin-like noises.
A waterfall, several sea caves and a raised, grotto-like
tide pool within another cave are all just a precursor to one of the coast’s
most fascinating spots.
There is a road carved out of the rocky headland here,
which was created in the early part of the century to allow Model T's
and horse-drawn carriages around the point at medium tides. Back at that
time, there was no Highway 101 (it wasn’t built until the 30’s),
and the beaches were Oregon’s coastal highways.
Most of the road is worn away and barnacle-covered now,
but there are bits of the concrete left, as well as a remnant of the old
traffic light which kept these ancient vehicles from smacking into each
also an interesting detail sitting right across from this traffic light,
on the north side of the “road” – one that’s obviously
out of place in such a rugged setting. Look for a small, metallic knob
here, apparently quite old and indicating the presence of an electrical
line of some sort at one point.
|Incredibly cool cave at Hug Point
At a low tide, this always-amazing road shows a new side:
what could be described as its underside. All of a sudden, the small,
once-paved road is taller, revealing that it's about ten feet off the
sand, with a grouping of boulders huddled at its base - as if they had
gathered in reverence to it.
Around its north side, where the water is deeper, sunnier
days reveal mysterious looking basalt slabs lying in the water, somehow
reminiscent of ancient Greek ruins. A few hundred feet south of the road,
a giant mushroom-shaped boulder pokes out from the sand, covered with
barnacles and with a small cluster of tide pools at its base. And around
the next two points you'll find giant crevices in the cliff face and those
telltale green lines of algae running around the rocks - signs that this
is where the tide usually sits.
the southern end of this beach there's a point that's normally not crossable
unless the tide is sufficiently far enough. In such a case, you'll find
another cove with more rock slabs to play around on, many of which are
surrounded by rich tide pools.
There's also another sea cave tucked away in here, with
some beautiful tide pools as well.
Hidden Beach View
Almost a mile south of Hug Point you’ll start heading
over a small bridge, and you’ll spot a blob of a hill on the westward
side of the highway. Take a good look: there are two discreet pathways
on either side of this hill. Park nearby (either in front of an entrance
or across the road), and as you walk up the path you’ll find a small,
clandestine bluff that provides a stunning aerial view of the road going
around Hug Point.
|Hidden viewpoint above Hug Point
But it’s a serious hidden spot, so, shhhhhhhh: don’t
tell anyone. The pathways straddle two the north and south sides of MP
Not far south of Hug Point lays the historical marker featuring
a replica of the cannon which landed nearby when the Navy vessel Shark
crashed in the late 1800's. The cannon actually came aground where Arch
Cape is now, and that community had the name Cannon Beach for a time.
A couple of miles south of Hug Point you’ll encounter
the lovely little beach interlude known as Arch Cape. It’s a tiny
community that consists of a few homes and one or two businesses right
on 101. But mostly it’s a couple of beach accesses hidden behind
some neighborhood streets.
This small, sandy beach reaches north all the way to near
Hug Point (which is totally accessible after this two-mile walk if it’s
low tide.) But on its south side you’ll find a small grouping of
rock structures hugging a basalt point. At lower tides, you can walk between
these and the cliffs and explore a rocky beach full of boulders and dramatic
The beach at Arch Cape has a preponderance of large cobblestones.
During some of the winter months, it’s almost entirely that, because
stormy wave action tears away sand levels like crazy. In recent years,
this kind of erosion has meant the appearance of a “ghost forest,”:
odd, tortured-looking tree parts that are part of a prehistoric forest
that is thousands of years old, perhaps has much as 80,000 years old.
Arch Cape Tunnel and Viewpoints
The tunnel appears simultaneously as Arch Cape pops into
view (if you’re coming from the north). On its southern side lay
some spectacular viewpoints looking south.
Hidden Beach Access
|"Magic Rocks" beach, at Falcon
Cove, s. of Cannon Beach
Immediately after some of these viewpoints you’ll
find Falcon Cove Road, which is a residential district. So you’ll
want to be respectful here as you park near a somewhat slippery, muddy
But once on the beach, you’ll find one of the more
unusual spots on the coast. Here, the beach is mostly comprised of large,
polished cobblestones. It’s a strange place: essentially you’re
walking on a huge pile of rocks, sometimes carved into odd tiers, making
it hard to traverse in places. The water crashes loudly on the steep shore,
dissipates quickly, then it makes a weird noise as the waves recede and
pull on the rocks.
Because of that, it’s nicknamed “Magic Rocks
Beach” by some of the locals.
On the south side, things are covered in large boulders
and you can sometimes make it around another, intriguing and secretive
Follow this hidden beach to the north and you’ll
run into the point bordering the other side of Arch Cape (see Arch Cape
|Suspension footbridge at Oswald West
Oswald West State Park
This sprawling, forested oasis runs along the highway for
over five miles, encompassing trails through thick rainforests, headlands,
viewpoints, campgrounds and some beautiful beach spots.
There are day-use areas about MP 39 on both sides of the
highway. These allow you access to the campgrounds, trails to Short Sand
Beach and the 5-mile roundtrip hike to Cape Falcon and its viewpoints. More pictures of Oswald State Park here
The Cape Falcon hike is part of the Oregon Coast Trail
system, and allows you the option of continuing on to Arch Cape –
making a total of an 8-mile-long hike. You begin at a tunnel going under
the highway, then wind towards the campground and Short Sand Beach. Instead
of taking the beach trail, continue north and keep left, eventually –
2.5 miles later – ending up atop the headland of Cape Falcon and
its various dramatic ocean viewpoints.
Or, you can keep going north along the cape, past three
cliff-edge viewpoints, and eventually the trail veers inland to meet up
with the Arch Cape suspension footbridge – about a half-mile from
Highway 101, outside of the tiny community.
This one’s a major favorite with surfers, beach bums
and families alike. In fact, this beach can appear very unOregon-like
in really nice weather, with crowds flooding this crescent cove (also
called Smuggler’s Cove), and a host of bikini-clad surfer groupies
lending this place a Southern California air.
There’s also a pleasant picnic spot above it all,
overlooking the park. And a rustic suspension footbridge provides some
amount of excitement as you cross to access the southern part of the beach
- if you’re trying to avoid having to wade through the creek.
Former Primitive Campgrounds
About a third of a mile into the forest lay what used to be the 29 primitive
campsites. State officials shut down this down in the mid 2000's, after trees became rather precarious. But when it was around the state would actually provide you with wheelbarrows
to haul in your camping gear with, and there were fireplaces and firewood
Sand Beach Trailhead
Soon, you’ve exited the thick canopy of trees and,
as you’re heading south, you begin to see more dramatic ocean views
open up in front of you. Immediately, look for MP 40 and a turnout that
overlooks Short Sand Beach and Cape Falcon. Here is another trail descending
to Short Sand Beach. It’s steep in spots, and gets you there after
about a little over a mile.
To discover some truly freaky places, take the path
to the left, rather than the trail to Short Sand. A set of forbidden cliffs
sits here – verboten because they are extremely dangerous and even
slippery at times. Do not take children here ever, and do not tread this
area when it’s rainy or wet. But some unforgettable sights lurk
here, with jagged cliffs looking like something post-apocalyptic from
the “Planet of the Apes” films.
more details on Cannon Beach and tons of pictures, see the Cannon Beach
Virtual Tour, Map.
For tons of Cannon
Beach Lodging, click here.