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Hiking Cape Lookout Trail on N. Oregon Coast Yields Soaring Views

Published 04/12/23 at 4:42 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Hiking Cape Lookout Trail on N. Oregon Coast Yields Soaring Views

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(Oceanside, Oregon) – One majestic headland, a series of incredible views, three engaging trails along with a wondrous canopy of thick forest. Oh yeah, there are some real surprises along the way. (View from above at Cape Lookout, all photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Expect the unexpected along Cape Lookout, the north Oregon coast headland that juts out in rugged majesty.

This grand headland is packed full of incredible views, a wondrous forest overhead and numerous surprises - plus there are three trails to enjoy. But Cape Lookout is huge – enormous. There's no way you can see it all, actually, but hiking Cape Lookout's trails is a good start.

There are three such trails atop often-misty Cape Lookout: the Cape Trail, the South Trail and the North Trail. There's also a fourth, smaller trail at the main Cape Lookout State Park area called the Nature Trail.


View from above at Cape Lookout, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

The Cape Trail makes a five-mile there-and-back trek along one side of the cape, winding up at the tip of this lofty outcropping where, if the weather permits, you can catch sight of Cascade Head and Cape Foulweather - some 40 miles to the south. To the north, you can even see Tillamook Head - about 42 miles to the north. It's primarily an easy trek with very little elevation gain. But there are enough uphill stretches to induce heavy breathing in even the most hardy.

It's also known for being pretty muddy a lot of the time, so Oregon coast experts say you should bring sturdy hiking shoes and maybe walking poles.

About a half mile down the Cape Trail - at one of the first railed lookout spots you encounter - there's the Crash Sight Memorial, where a World War II B-17 bomber slammed into the headland in 1942.

The aircraft was based out of Pendleton, Oregon and was on maneuvers when, due to fog, it crashed into Cape Lookout and cut a swath through the headland 50 ft. wide and 500 ft. long. All but one of the 11-man crew were killed in the crash. He was found two days later and eventually recovered. The plane pretty much disintegrated upon impact, and all its pieces have either been eaten by the forest or been taken by souvenir hunters in the last 70 years. See the full story: What Really Happened with the Crashed B-17 Bomber on N. Oregon Coast's Cape Lookout

The South Trail veers off to the left of the Cape Trail, taking you down to a hidden cove and a secluded, very sandy beach - eventually connecting to the Sand Beach campground area about four miles to the south. This is no easy trek, however. It's a zigzagging plod downward through two miles of trail before you hit the beach, so you can assume the hike back up will be a gnarly one.

The North Trail leads you down to Cape Lookout State Park and the picnic areas. The trail moves downhill about 2 miles, making it a fairly easy hike. Coming back from the state park to the upper trailhead is all uphill, however, and a much more strenuous safari.


Keep in mind, except at the absolute driest times of the year, these paths often contain spots which are extremely muddy and damp. After all, they essentially plod through a rain forest. There's also quite a bit of wind up here on top of this lofty headland, even on a day where it seems like there's little wind on the beaches. So be advised of the weather and wind conditions before you go.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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