Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Summer is here and, if you are lucky, you have booked a vacation house on the Central Oregon Coast. This area of the coast offers many outdoor activities for families and couples. Especially for the hiking or tide pooling enthusiast, let me just say, “Cape Perpetua Scenic Area” for starters. It is another great reason to visit the Central Oregon Coast. I fell in love with Cape Perpetua when I was 21 years old and it remains my Reason #2 to visit the Central Oregon Coast. (See my Reason #1 here).
Rising 800 feet above sea level, the forested cape is the remnant of an ancient collision of a volcanic island chain that slammed into the North American land mass 50 million years ago. Old growth spruce, Douglas fir and western hemlock trees flourish along with many species of birds and small game.
Another Great Reason to Visit the Central Oregon Coast
Choices of things to do abound when you visit Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. First, stop in at the interpretive center. The facility is also wheel chair accessible. Learn about native people who lived near and hunted seafood in the area for thousands of years. Piles of discarded mussel shells, forming what are called shell middens, are evident still today. They are protected for their historical significance.
The interpretive center provides binoculars for watching whales out the large windows. Also, learn facts about trees, plants, birds and animals that live in the area. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area comprises 2700 acres. Good shoes for walking are recommended as you head out to explore.
Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well
Captain Cook scenic trail (also wheel chair accessible) leads to the Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well. Both formations are salt water fountains that are driven by the power of the tides. They are most spectacular an hour before and an hour after high tide.
Watch Thor’s Well as tons of ocean water pours into the lava tube and are sucked down to who knows how far.
Then, violently, tons of ocean splash are pushed back up and out, spilling back into the thrashing surf. Unfortunately, curious onlookers have ventured too close for a peek and have lost their lives when washed into the churning waves. These rocks are a dangerous place for humans so keep safely back as you watch nature’s handiwork.
The Spouting Horn is most visible when the tide is in. Water washes into a hole in the basalt bank and ocean spray is exerted back out by the power of the waves. It looks like the plume from a whale as it expels its breath.
600 year old Spruce tree at Cape Perpetua
And, there is even more! A mile hike to view a 600 year old Sitka Spruce is a really nice time; not too strenuous and lovely views of greenery along the way. This tree was growing when Columbus and his crew made their way to this continent.
Top of Cape Perpetua
Hike about 45 minutes to the top of the cape through old growth spruce, Douglas fir and western hemlock trees. Experience the iconic 70 miles view of southern coastline. You can also see over 35 miles out to sea. The West Shelter Observation point that was built by the CCC in 1933 is accessible along the trail. This stone parapet housed a large defense gun during WWII where surveillance was conducted to protect our coast, . You may also drive to the top of the cape if you do not want to hike.
Many other hikes are available out of the interpretive center parking lot and along the way as you wander to the points described above. I recommend you allocate at least 2 hours for a good look around, but, if you bring a picnic, you can easily spend all day.
Tide pooling and beach combing at Cape Perpetua
Tide pooling on the lava banks when the tide is out reveals anemones, sea stars, urchins and other creatures dependent on the ocean tides. Beach combing for pretty rocks and uniquely shaped driftwood is fun. From the lava bank, I once watched as a sea otter wrestled a crab in the surf. It was exciting to see and, yes, the otter won.
A bit of history
British explorer, Captain James Cook, discovered this majestic headland on his second voyage to the Pacific as he searched for a northwest passage into the continent. In recognition of a 3rd century Christian martyr named Perpetua, the cape was named on March 7, 1778. Ironically, Captain Cook was killed a year later, in 1779, as he attempted to kidnap the Hawaiian king when he returned to Hawaii on his third Pacific voyage.
Siuslaw National Forest
Cape Perpetua is part of the Siuslaw National Forest and is located 2 miles south of Yachats, Oregon, right off Highway 101. The interpretive center carries maps for hiking that are available for purchase. They also sell the Northwest Forest Pass, Oregon Coast Passport, or a $5 day-use fee that is required within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Purchase of a pass covers parking at other trail heads and day use sites.
My Reason #1 and Reason #2 to visit the Central Oregon Coast are closely related and are within 2 miles of each other. You shouldn’t skip either one. There is so much to experience at Cape Perpetua that it actually takes more than one visit to take it all in. I have been there dozens of times by now. Every time I find it equally exciting and I always see something new that I missed before. What is your favorite thing to do at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area?
We trust you will collect wonderful memories with your family when you stay at the Sea Anemone as you visit and explore Yachats.
Our house, where memories begin…