GO: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

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If ever you have needed a heavy dose of scenery, this place will deliver. It’s one of the Oregon Coast’s top attractions for a number of reasons, and its rugged, beautiful scenery tops the list.

Cape Perpetua viewpoint by Alex1derr via Flickr Creative Commons

The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is over 2700 acres in size and sits just two miles south of the awesome seaside town of Yachats. This is the heart of the central Oregon Coast and is noticeably less-visited than its northern counterpart, especially in the off-season.

Cape Perpetua itself is an 800-foot tall basalt headland. The cape’s stunning scenery is evident from the start, before you even step out of your car.

Up for a hike? Cape Perpetua has the highest concentration of hiking trails along the Oregon Coast – 27 miles of hiking on 11 trails – so bring your boots and a backpack (and rain gear – this is one of the wettest regions on the coast.)

Make your first stop the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, open daily. The folks here can give you details on your hiking choices, tips on tide-pooling and maps to help you get around.

You’ll find hiking options for all ages and abilities. The Captain Cook Trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible, leading you from the Visitor Center to skirt the shoreline. Also departing from the Visitor Center is the St. Perpetua Trail, a 2.6-mile round-trip hike that climbs 600 feet to a panoramic viewpoint on the cape itself. The panorama is worth the short climb; on a clear day you will see Cape Blanco to the north and Cape Foulweather to the south. Keep an eye out for passing whales, especially December – March. The Trail of Restless Waters is just half a mile and allows coast access. For a hike that is short and super sweet, try the Whispering Spruce Trail, a beautiful .3-mile loop walk through a spruce forest to a cliffside that overlooks Cape Perpetua below.

Devils Churn, photo by Becky Platt via Flickr Creative Commons.

A unique geologic feature known as Devil’s Churn down below the cape will take your breath away. Devil’s Churn is a narrow fissure in the rock through which seawater surges in and out. Go at high tide for the most frothy spectacle. Thousands of years of crashing waves carved the inlet into the basalt shoreline, first forming a deep sea cave, and later the inlet was formed when the sea cave’s roof collapsed. You can access Devil’s Churn from the Trail of Restless Waters. Be cautious and keep a safe distance from the churn itself. As the tide comes in it, it can throw ocean spray several hundred feet into the air.

Camping: Cape Perpetua Campground is nestled along the banks of Cape Creek, a short hike to the views. There are 38 tent sites that are $24 per night. The campground is only open seasonally May – September. For camping info and reservations: recreation.gov / 1.877.444.6777.

In winter months, consider camping at nearby Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park where one of their yurts for $39 a night will keep you warm and dry.


Info: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area website | (541) 547-3679

Fee: Northwest Forest Pass Required ($30 annual / $5 one-day pass)

Lauren Braden’s new book, 52 Ways to Nature, Washington: Your Seasonal Guide to a Wilder Year, is now available for pre-order
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