Cape Meares and Cape Lookout make up two-thirds of the Three Capes Loop, on Oregon’s Pacific coast. Cape Lookout offers a long hike, and Cape Meares features a picturesque lighthouse. You’ll also enjoy some great scenery along the route, in between the capes, including Three Arch Rocks, off the coast of Oceanside, Oregon.
If you’re a casual visitor on a tight schedule, there isn’t anything to see at Cape Lookout. There is a parking area and a trail that leads out to the end of the cape. But, you’ll need to invest a few hours in this trail, since it’s just shy of 5 miles, round-trip.
I was driving north along the Three Capes Loop, first visiting Cape Kiwanda, then Cape Lookout, and eventually headed to Cape Meares, then Tillamook. Heading north from Cape Lookout, I spotted a turnout at the side of the road.
An ancient-looking sign identifies this as Anderson’s View Point.
In the corner of the parking area, there’s a marker in the shape of a surveyor’s tripod, with a plaque explaining that the viewpoint is named in memory of Billy Anderson, a surveyor-engineer for Tillamook County.
Anderson couldn’t have been honored with a better view. From this spot, you can look north for miles, towards Cape Meares and the Three Arch Rocks (on the left, in the distance). You also get a great view of Netarts Bay (just out of frame on this picture — that sandy beach separates the bay from the ocean). The towns of Netarts and Oceanside are also visible in the distance.
Another person is also remembered at this spot. A marker honors Dick Gammon, a hang glider pilot. The spot is a popular launch for hang gliders.
From Anderson’s Viewpoint, drive north (downhill), and in moments, you’re skirting the edge of Netarts Bay.
Watch for some good places along the road to observe the local wildlife. You’re getting closer to the Three Arch Rocks, which will constantly distract your attention when you should be looking at the road.
Around midday, you’ll also have a shadowy view of Cape Lookout to the south, surrounded by the sparkling bay waters.
Homes in Oceanside, Oregon enjoy a fantastic view of the Three Arch Rocks. I stopped just outside the town limits for this view of the sea stacks.
Cape Meares is at the north end of the loop drive, just before it turns inland for the drive along the edge of Tillamook Bay. Walk the short path to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. It’s somewhat odd to see the top of the lighthouse at the end of the trail.
The lighthouse has a nice perch on the end of the cape. Notice its red Fresnel lens — the color gives it a unique signature, that lets ship captains know which lighthouse they’re seeing.
You can walk into the small gift shop in the base of the lighthouse, and take a free tour to the top of the light. The lighthouse is open daily 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., April through October.
I didn’t have time for the tour on this visit, but I did climb to the top during my 2007 visit, and took this picture of the red-eyeball Fresnel lens.
Don’t forget to enjoy the view looking south, towards the other two capes.
And, check out the “Octopus” tree — an oddly-formed Sitka Spruce, growing near the parking lot.
The Bottom Line
The Three Capes Loop is a nice, scenic alternative to US Highway 101, which runs inland through this area. You’ll definitely see more, when you take the scenic loop. You’ll also travel at a slower pace. If your time is limited, I’d recommend visiting either Cape Kiwanda or Cape Meares, and skipping the other two capes — with Kiwanda as my favorite of the three.
The Three Capes Loop is located west of Tillamook, Oregon. The scenic route’s southern end is at Pacific City, at Cape Kiwanda, which I’ve covered on a separate page. Cape Lookout is in the middle of the route, and Cape Meares is near the top. The loop connects with US Highway 101 at the north and south ends, making it an easy detour off the main road. You can also short-cut through the middle, if you need to get back to US 101 quickly.
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: