Head to the beach, it’s a short walk from the B&B. Go to the 4-way stop in the center of town and turn left. Over the Nestucca River and the sand dune and you are on the beach. Walking north toward Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, a mile away, you can see the Dory Fleet launch their fishing boats in the surf and visit the local brew pub. During winter storms, the Cape is the best place to see the massive waves. Watch for the adventurous types, hang gliding, para sailing and surfing. Make sure to climb to the top for great views. We’ve even had a few guests propose at the top of the dune. Walking toward the south on 4 miles of beach, chances are you won’t encounter many people. You will enter Bob Straub State Park, keep walking on the Nestucca Spit and try to make it to the mouth of the Nestucca River. During salmon runs, you will see seals and seal lions gorging on the fish or taking a nap after the feeding. Discover lots of birds, shells and whatever the tide and ocean has left for you to explore.
We suggest a drive on the Three Capes Scenic Loop. Start right here at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The dorymen launch the boats into the surf at sunrise. Most are back around 11:00 a.m. when the wind starts to pick up. Climb to the top of the dune and watch the boats landing and the surfers surfing.
Head north out of the parking lot and follow the signs to Cape Lookout State Park. At the summit, park and take the 2.4 mile hike out to the end. You will be walking through the center of a rain forest, so make sure you have another pair of shoes, this trail does get muddy and they have placed boardwalks in the bad spots. The views are amazing, so don’t forget the camera. During whale migration, this is a great spot to watch. The beach trail from the summit is for the fittest. A switchback down to a secluded beach, getting back is the hard part.
Head north again out of the lot and follow the road around Netarts Bay. The Schooner, on the north side of the bay is a good spot for lunch, so is Rosanne’s in Oceanside, the next town on the route. In Oceanside, stop at Three Arch Rocks National Bird and Sea Lion Refuge, park and walk out on the beach, bring you binoculars to view the Tufted Puffins and Common Mures nesting on the rocks. At low tide, you can walk through a tunnel to a private beach to the north.
Out of Oceanside and left again to the last cape on the tour, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, home to Cape Meares Lighthouse and Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge. If you only get out of the car once, do it here. An easy, wheelchair accessible path guides you down to the lighthouse that is open for tours April through October, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We like to walk along the fence line on the south side on the way back up. Don’t forget to see the Octopus Tree. As with the other capes, this is great for whales, birds and photos. If you get a good one, enter it in their annual contest.The forests around the Refuge include massive Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock.
After taking all this classic Oregon Coast experience take a left on the road, down the hill to the stop sign. The scenic loop says to turn right, but we suggest you turn left into the town of Cape Meares. Follow the road until it ends. Hop out and carefully walk over all the rocks to this hidden gem. The Tillamook Bay Spit is to the North and the ocean side collects a ton of debris after the strong coastal storms. The bay side is great for bird watching. During Salmon season, you will see boat after boat trying their luck to catch that 45-pound salmon.
Back track your way back on the scenic drive and follow along the edge of Tillamook Bay into the town of Tillamook. Once on Highway 101, go north if you need an ice cream cone at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. If you need more cheese, stop at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company.
Head south back on Highway 101, passing dairy farms and pastures. Look for the herd of Elk, a few fields past the Air Museum on the east side of the road. Follow 101 all the way back to Pacific City and if you timed it right, there will be cookies waiting for you here at The Craftsman B&B.
So you want to see the Three Capes but don’t want to drive. You can hike them all.
Yesterday was mostly driving and a little hiking, unless you ventured out to the end of Cape Lookout. Today will be more hiking and less driving as we point you south of Pacific City towards bluffs overlooking the ocean. Then to a short beach adventure.
Head out to highway 101 and turn right toward Lincoln City. About 2 miles down, turn on Christensen Road to the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The road leads you to the first, overflow parking lot and a gate. Go through the gate and follow the narrow road up the hill to the second lot. Here you can park and take the short hike on the trail up Cannery Hill to the viewing platform near the top of the hill. Watch for songbirds in the grasses as you work your way up to the platform. Binoculars are good to have, but you will still see birds. Watch the tree groves as well for hawks resting on the outer branches. On the platform you get great views of Cape Kiwanda, Haystack Rock, Little Nestucca River and the Nestucca Bay.
The next hike to the Nature Conservancy Trail in the headland meadows is further south on 101. You will drive through Neskowin and over the summit of Cascade Head. Then at the base of the hill, turn right on Three Rocks Road for 2.2 miles and turn left to the parking lot of the Savage Park boat ramp.
The lower Nature Conservancy Trail is a moderate 4.2-mile hike, gaining 1200 feet of elevation. Let’s head out, the trail crosses Three Rocks Road and traverses the woods above Savage Road. Just into the hike, ignore a side path to the left that leads to an old trail head. The main trail climbs through a forest of large, gnarled spruce to a meadow with a breathtaking view across the Salmon River estuary. In the distance are Cape Foulweather and Lincoln City's Devils Lake. Then the path steepens and climbs to an upper viewpoint, the recommended turnaround spot.
Cascade Head information
Cascade Head is the tip of a 300-mile-long Columbia River basalt lava flow that erupted near Idaho about 15 million years ago and puddled up at the seashore here. The panoramic bluff-top wildflower meadows were threatened by commercial development in the 1960s, but fans of the wild headland rallied to purchase the fragile area and donate it to the non-profit Nature Conservancy for preservation. Ironically, the impact of up to 10,000 nature-loving visitors a year now threatens the meadows' ecology. As a result, two of the trail heads are closed for six months of each year, pets are banned, and hikers are urged to stay on existing trails. Flower picking, hunting, camping, fires, bicycles, and dogs are banned at Cascade Head. The easy, upper trail head to the headland meadows is closed six months of the year to protect threatened Oregon silver spot butterfly caterpillars. Even if you hike here from the lower trail head (open all year), please stay on the trail. Even spreading out a picnic may inadvertently trample the meadow's rare checker mallows, 5-petaled pink wildflowers, or the violets that serve as food for the rare caterpillars. In summer expect white yarrow, plumes of goldenrod, tall pink foxglove, and Indian paintbrush.
Back in the car to highway 101 and head north to Neskowin Beach and Proposal Rock. Turn left into this tiny village and work your way west and south on the roads to the beach. Proposal Rock is where you are headed, be prepared to get your feet wet as a creek runs through the center of this beach. Named for a turn-of-the-century marriage proposal here, this tall, near-shore monolith at Neskowin Beach is a great place for a short walk to and around, if tide permits. Walking to the south at low tide and you will see the remains of the ghost forest. Buried until the December Storm of 2008 when unusually high winds and surf eroded the beach to uncover the long lost forest. Be smart out here, sneaker waves and the incoming tide have claimed many lives at this beach!
Head back to 101 north to Pacific City, we will be waiting for your return. Will you need a bottle of bubbles to celebrate a proposal?
Yesterday’s hikes were just a warm up for the next hike on Nature Conservancy land at Cascade Head. We suggest the most rewarding of the hikes to Hearts Cove. This trail from the summit is a Forest Service trail head and is closed from January to mid-July to protect wildlife.
Head out to highway 101 and south. You will drive through the town of Neskowin and head up the hill to the summit of Cascade Head. At the summit, pull off into the parking area on the right for Cascade Head Road 1861. After 3.3 miles, a guardrail on the left marks the easy, upper trail head to the Nature Conservancy preserve on Cascade Head. Pass that by and drive an extra 0.8-mile to a parking lot at road's end.
Harts Cove is a 5.4-mile hike down 900 feet of elevation, one-way. They say it’s a moderate hike, it is going down hill. The return trip is a little more difficult. You will hike down a switch-backing trail through a hemlock forest and a footbridge over Cliff Creek. Then it’s Sitka spruce and hemlock giants to a bench that offers a glimpse ahead to Harts Cove's headland. Continue on the main trail, cross a bridge over Chitwood Creek to the headland's fabulously scenic meadow. Take the leftmost of several paths down the grassy bluff to find a cliff-edge viewpoint overlooking Harts Cove and Chitwood Creek's waterfall. To reach the shore, climb back up from this viewpoint 50 yards to a junction and head seaward. A scramble trail descends to the lava rock edge of the headland, where deep water gently rises and falls, exposing a bathtub ring of barnacles, starfish, and sea palms.
Head back to 101 north to Pacific City, the hot tub is ready for your weary body.