This particularly scenic spot along Oregon’s Pacific coast is a great place to stop and enjoy the ocean. You can enjoy the view of the giant jug-handled Haystack Rock offshore, from an expansive beach, or go for a hike up the sandy slopes that make up the cape.
Cape Kiwanda holds a special place in my heart, because it always seems like I’m stopping here at the very end of my vacation. Back in 2007, it was my final stop along the Pacific coast before heading back to Portland. This time, I was stopping here on my final day, with just a few hours to go, before saying goodbye to the ocean.
You couldn’t ask for a better spot along the coast. It starts with this:
… the huge, jug-handled sea stack that’s just offshore. You’ll only be able to see the jug handle from a certain angle, but it’s visible from the parking area. The big rock is known as Haystack Rock — not to be confused with two other similarly-shaped rocks along the Oregon coast that share the name.
Once you’ve reached the edge of the water, you’ll want to turn right…
… and head towards the actual cape. The State Natural Area begins at the foot of the hill. The part that juts out into the ocean is a harder-packed sand, while the hill behind it is more like a sand dune.
With a little effort, you can climb up the hill, in the area where the cape and the dune meet.
It’s a steep climb, and the loose dirt/sand doesn’t make the hike any easier. When you get to this spot, there’s a warning sign. Stay behind the fence or you risk becoming a victim of some rapid erosion.
Okay, I admit, I’m obviously not behind the fence at this point. When I climbed up the hill, I ended up here, so I took a picture, then went back to a safer distance. As you can see, the ocean has taken some big bites out of the very soft, sandy “rock” along the edge of the cape, and it would be very easy for the cliff to give way, if you got too close.
You could hike out to the end of the cape, but I think it’s more rewarding to follow the fence and head over to the other side…
… where there’s an interesting inlet, filled with frothy foam. Watch for a minute, and you’ll see some big waves go crashing into a sea cave. Its only outlet…
… is a crack in the rock that’s flooded with foam. When the water rushes in, it shoots up in geyser-like fashion.
If I had realized how pretty this eruption of foam was, I probably would have hopped the fence and ventured closer.
Keep following the fence…
… and you’ll end up at this dramatic viewpoint, looking north, up the coast.
I was running short on time, as I bid my farewell to the coast, so I headed back down to the beach, and to my car. However, I saw other people hiking up to the top of the sand dune, which is probably also a worthwhile effort.
From here, you can jump back over to US 101 for the quick drive north, or take the Three Capes Loop, which stays closer to the coast, and provides access to Cape Lookout and Cape Meares.
The Bottom Line
Cape Kiwanda is certainly worth a stop, as you travel along the Pacific coast. It could be a 10-minute visit, or a half-day (or more, if you include some time at the nearby businesses and restaurants in Pacific City). If you have time, hike up the hill to the other side of the cape and enjoy the view, or play around on the dune. After your visit, continue on up the Three Capes Loop towards Cape Lookout and Cape Meares.
Cape Kiwanda is located at the southern end of the Three Capes Loop, a scenic detour from US Highway 101. It’s located at the edge of the small town of Pacific City, southwest of Tillamook.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Lincoln City, up to the Three Capes Loop including Kiwanda and Meares, and Netarts Bay: