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Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region

Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge - Photo by Roy Lowe USFWS


Established in 1938, Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge consists of vertical coastal cliffs, rock outcroppings, and rolling headlands with old-growth forest dominated by Sitka spruce and western hemlock. This small refuge protects one of the last stands of old-growth coastal forest in Oregon. The vertical seacliffs around this headland support nesting seabird populations including tufted puffins, common murres, pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants, and others. Peregrine falcons nest on the cliffs, and the recently delisted bald eagle forages on the headland.

Download a PDF map of Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge (1.9 MB).


Refuge Planning and Management

The Oregon Coast Refuge Complex completed a planning process for the long term management of wildlife, habitat, and public use activities on Cape Meares, Oregon Islands, and Three Arch Rocks Refuges. Download a map of our planned management direction (2.6 MB PDF). For more information, visit our CCP site.


Peregrine Falcon - Photo by David Ledig USFWS

Wildlife and Habitats

Cape Meares Refuge offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Spring is the best time to view the Peregrine Falcons and nesting Common Murres on coastal rocks. During the winter months, you can see a different assortment of wildlife from the headland, including migrating gray whales, three species of scoters, Western Grebes, and Common Loons.

A pair of Peregrine Falcon, a species recovered from the brink of extinction, has nested on the refuge since 1987. A wildlife viewing deck at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint offers visitors a glimpse into the eyrie, or nest site, of the falcon pair from early April through July providing an unparalleled opportunity to witness the magic of the fastest animal on the planet.


Old-growth forest at Cape Meares - Photo by Roy Lowe USFWS

Visitor Opportunities

The Cape Meares headland boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge can easily be viewed from the Cape, making it the only viewpoint in the United States where three Refuges can be seen at one time.

Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy several trails that wind through the headland and old-growth forest. The popular Oregon Coast Trail runs through the center of the refuge. Interpretive panels along the headland trail offer information about the refuge and its wild inhabitants. Many of the trails are located adjacent to the refuge within Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint.

From the Cape Meares parking lot a 1/4-mile trail leads to a historic lighthouse located at the tip of the headland. The lighthouse is open to the public from April through October and the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse & Wildlife Refuge provide guided tours. Just south of the parking lot a short trail leads to the hauntingly beautiful octopus tree. This ancient Sitka spruce has multiple branches that reach out vertically from the ground evoking images of spindly octopus arms.

The refuge is open year-round from sunrise to sunset and access is controlled by a gate at the beginning of the entrance road. There are two accessible viewing decks overlooking the nesting falcons and Three Arch Rocks Refuge.

Volunteers are stationed on the viewing decks at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint from mid-April to August to assist visitors in learning more about the seabirds, marine mammals and rocky intertidal habitat.

Giant Sitka Spruce: A state champion

In February 2008, a giant Sitka Spruce within Cape Meares Refuge was designated the largest of its kind in Oregon. The spruce stands 144 feet tall with a circumference of 48 feet and a crown spread of 93 feet. It is estimated to be between 700-800 years old. You can visit the tree by hiking south on the refuge's Oregon Coast trail, the tree is located at the end of the trail.


Refuge Friends Groups

Refuge Friends Groups, also considered refuge support groups, consist of private citizens who form grassroots nonprofit organizations that provide volunteer and financial support to their local National Wildlife Refuge. Cape Meares is fortunate to have the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge promoting and interpreting the natural and historical qualities of Cape Meares State Park and Wildlife Refuge, thereby enhancing a significant cultural resource.


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Site last updated October 20, 2014