Visitor Activities

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The combination of precipitous coastal cliffs and decadent old-growth forest within Cape Meares NWR represents an exceedingly rare setting on our coast. Whether one wishes to hike under Oregon's largest Sitka Spruce, tour the state's shortest lighthouse, or watch Gray Whales migrate past the headland, Cape Meares offers plenty for visitors to see and do.

  • Hiking

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    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. Check out these sites for more hiking information at Cape Meares:

    Cape Meares is home to two of Oregon's most celebrated trees, the champion Sitka Spruce and the "Octopus Tree", both of which are easily accessible via short hikes.

    Get an in-depth profile of Sitka Spruce here.

  • Interpretation

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    During the summer, volunteers offer interpretation on weekends to visitors at various locations up and down the coast, including:

    Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

    Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

    Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

    Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint

    Cape Arago State Park 

    Coquille Point, Bandon

    Harris Beach State Park

  • Lighthouse Viewing

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    The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1889 and commissioned on January 1, 1890. The tower stands 38 feet high, making it the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. Read more about its history here.

  • Wildlife Viewing

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    Some tips to make watching wildlife enjoyable and rewarding:

    •Download our Watchable Wildlife guide (PDF 444 KB), consult Oregon Explorer's Watchable Wildlife page to locate hotspots for wildlife, or look for the "Wildlife Viewing Station" sign wherever you visit. Plan your visit according to the season, tidal phase, and time of day. Wildlife is generally more active in the mornings and early evenings than in the afternoon.

    •Download a copy of the Oregon Coast Birding Trail guide. 

    •Keep voices down while approaching a viewing area to avoid scaring wildlife away before you get there. Although animals may disappear when you arrive, they often return shortly if you are quiet and still.

    •Use binoculars and spotting scopes to bring animals "closer" to you without disturbing them.

    •Bring a field guide to help you identify various species and the habitats they prefer. But, remember the goal is to identify with the wildlife, not just identify it.

    •Often a close look reveals more. Look up, look down. Or peer through a hand lens to enter the world of insects. Animals come in a range of sizes and occupy a variety of niches.

    Avoid disturbing wildlife. Remember that all coastal rocks and islands are closed to public access, and all watercraft should stay at least 500 feet away.