Three Capes Scenic Route is roughly a 40-mile stretch of pure scenic wonder along the northern coast of Oregon. On a map, as you travel north from Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda is first and smallest, followed by the magnificent Cape Lookout, on to Cape Meares with its lighthouse, and finishing near the towns of Netarts and Oceanside. A cape is a piece of land, or peninsula, stretching into the ocean from the mainland. The trails on the capes offer impressive views of waves, especially in the winter months. All three capes are state parks that welcome visitors. The geographical variety on the scenic route includes sand dunes, beaches, forests, and rugged cliffs. There is so much to see that you could structure an entire vacation in this area alone. If you are on a driving day trip, try to incorporate the Cape Lookout trail.
Cape Kiwanda, with its open cliffs, is perfectly positioned for coastline views and photos. Viewing from the south, the beaches in Pacific City are a popular spot for surfers.
Cape Lookout juts out to sea so far that many visitors often see resident or migrating gray whales swimming and playing right at the point. Keep in mind that this is actually a 10-mile hike; the only way back is the same trail you took out. Walking the path is very easy with switchbacks that offer views from both sides of the cape. Take plenty of water with you, especially during warm months. Wear comfortable shoes, bring snacks, and do not forget binoculars. It may be foggy in the morning, but the sky can clear up beautifully before you reach the end. In the winter, prepare for cold, rainy conditions but this hike is well worth the effort. I would probably stay away during very windy conditions due to possible falling branches during nature’s natural pruning. If you enjoy some solitude, I recommend starting your hike early in the morning. Cape Lookout is a very popular trail among tourists and can get very busy.
The trail guides you through a forest of fir trees and then opens to tremendous views. You look back and realize how far from the mainland you have come. It is almost as if you are on a boat out at sea but without the seasickness.
Finish your trip by having lunch in Oceanside. This small coastal community is tucked into a hillside overlooking Three Arch Rock, or drive into Tillamook to visit the popular Tillamook Cheese Factory. A great break for the kids, you can watch cheese being prepared and packaged. My favorite stop for cheese curds and ice cream.