What: Cape Meares Lighthouse
Where: Tip of Cape Meares just south of Tillamook Bay
When: Year round, 7 am to dusk (tours April to October)
Why: You get a historical lighthouse, incredible views, and natural wonders all in one stop
About 10 miles west of Tillamook way out on Cape Meares, you’ll find a bit of a treasure: a historical lighthouse surrounded by interesting wildlife, spectacular views, and fascinating trees. And it’s all accessible from the same parking lot.
The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1889. As Oregon’s shortest lighthouse, it gives you a great view of its top with little effort. There is a shady, paved trail down to the lighthouse from the parking lot (save some energy for the walk back because it’s deceivingly steep). They have a teensy interpretive/gift shop and free tours from April to October (with limited days/times in the Spring and Fall). Small children aren’t allowed on the tour, but anyone can walk around the lighthouse exterior year-round.
Cape Meares is also a great place to bird-watch or whale watch during migration seasons. There are designated viewing points, but there are incredible views all around, in part thanks to the National Wildlife Refuge that cover the cape.
A short hike from the parking lot you’ll also find two interesting Sitka Spruces. There are two you won’t want to miss: one is the Octupus Tree, which has what looks like tentacles reaching up. It’s an Oregon Heritage Tree, which basically means it’s super old. And cool. It’s considered a sacred tree to local tribes, and is probably 250 years old. (It was already an adult by the time Lewis & Clark made it to the coast!)
The second Sitka is even larger and older: Old Spruce is 144 feet tall and 15.5 feet in diameter, and is an estimated 750 to 800 years old! It’s the oldest of its kind in the state. Old Spruce will require you to park in a different lot (near the entrance to the scenic viewpoint), but it’s still only takes a short hike to reach it.
When you visit, try to check the roads in advance. We had to turn home once during a rainy season due to sinkholes, and I know the roads have been closed for landslides before too.
You probably won’t spend hours and hours at Cape Meares, but it’s a breathtaking spot and well worth the scenic drive.