Hikes to Spot Spouts on Oregon's North Coast
By Jenna Boyle Feehan
Published: 09/07/2009  Updated: 08/14/2019
Cape Lookout trail provides hikers with a neat footpath for one stretch of the journey.
Cape Lookout trail provides hikers with a neat footpath for one stretch of the journey.  Photo by Gary Hayes

Whether you're a hiker who might fancy seeing a whale or two, or a whale watcher who's not afraid of a little leg work, these coastal headland hikes invite you to unite two popular Northwest pastimes.

The North Oregon Coast offers abundant whale watching locales. Many are easily accessed by car, while others can be arrived at solely by the power of one's own. Tillamook Head, Cape Falcon and Cape Lookout are three of the region's most impressive view-producing hikes, presenting ­opportunities for not only spying the world's largest mammals, but also for meeting flora and fauna of the terrestrial variety. Lace up your boots, grab some binocs and head out for a spout-spotting adventure.

Tillamook Head is the headland situated between Cannon Beach and Seaside. Pick up an interpretive map at the trail head (located at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park) and learn as you travel through healthy rainforest of Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, and occasional Western Red Cedar. A steep 1.2-mile trail presents numerous extraordinary views along the way, while a dirt road will more quickly deliver you to the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse viewpoint. Both paths also lead to a hiker's camp and the remains of a World War II radar station. Another trail from this point directs ambitious hikers an additional four miles up and over the headland, concluding at a trailhead near Seaside.

Cape Falcon, the north promontory of Oswald West State Park, is located 10 miles south of Cannon Beach. From the park's northernmost parking area, a moderate 2.5-mile hike through rich, lichen-encrusted woodland presents several magnificent views of Short Sands beach and the Pacific coastline to the south. Old-growth trees and mammoth snags tower above, while Huckleberry and Sword fern ­blanket the earth. Winding through a labyrinth of Salal, you'll arrive at a spectacular 240-foot perch atop the cape. Gulls and cormorants soar below, and whales (hopefully!) can be spotted just offshore.

Cape Lookout is the central headland of the Three Capes ­Scenic Route, just west of Tillamook. This easy-to-moderate trail winds 2.4 miles through wet coastal forest and along the ominous rock cliffs of the cape. Woodpeckers, chickadees and ground squirrels are commonly encountered in this lush wonderland, and the cape's end is complete with a bench for resting as you enjoy the payoff of an astonishingly expansive panorama.
Hikes to Spot Spouts on Oregon's North Coast