Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mile 86.2 to Mile 99.9: Cape Lookout to Pacific City

Notations such as “(Hike 23)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
This stretch takes you over two of the three capes in the Three Capes region of the Oregon Coast—cape, from the Latin caput: the head, the chief, the top. A headland, in other words. And these two particular capes couldn’t be more different: Cape Lookout, a finger of basalt pointing west, the remains of a lava delta that flowed here from around the present-day Oregon-Idaho border some 15.5 million years ago, and Cape Kiwanda, made of golden sandstone, continuously re-sculpted by the elements as it slowly erodes. (Photo below: Top of Cape Kiwanda, with Cape Lookout faint in the background.)

Pick up the OCT where it leaves the day use area at the south end of Cape Lookout State Park (not far from the hiker-biker camp) and follow it up 2.3 miles to the trailhead parking area at the top of the cape (Hike 23). From here, pick up the trail heading west toward the tip of the cape. But just 75 yards down that trail you hit a junction; turn left to continue south on the OCT (Hike 24). The trail winds 1.8 miles down through the forest to the beach on the south side of the cape (Hike 24). Continue down the beach 4 miles to the outlet of wide, shallow Sand Lake (8.1 miles).

From my experience and that of others, you can expect the outlet of Sand Lake to be crossable ONLY at low tide, even in late summer. I got there an hour past low tide, in early September, and managed to find a spot about 100 years inland where it was just barely shallow enough to cross without swimming or losing my footing on the soft sand underwater, but crossing would have been impossible in another 20-30 minutes. Trekking poles could be helpful for this crossing. (If you arrive too late to wade the outlet, you could leave the beach at the RV park just north of the outlet and follow Sand Lake Road south; turn right on Roma Avenue at the north end of the community of Tierra del Mar and follow the trail at the end of Roma to the beach.
Continue south 4.4 miles (from Sand Lake outlet) on the beach and up and over the sandy neck of Cape Kiwanda to the beach access parking lot (and Pelican Pub) at the north end of Pacific City. The center of town is another 1.2 miles south by road (13.7 miles). You can find groceries in both places.
There seemed to be an informal surfers’ camp on the beach just south of Cape Lookout when I hiked by;  it’s a good half-mile north of Camp Meriwether, so the Boy Scouts shouldn't be bothered by your presence. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda and Cape Kiwanda RV Resort (for camping) are right across the road from the Pelican Pub, and there are more motels in the town center.

1 comment:

  1. Do not assume you can cross Sand Lake at low tide. Crossed on 07-02-2020 at low tide (4:17 pm 2.59 ft). I am 6'-2" and it was up to my armpits, had to cross holding my pack over my head (then came back for my wife's). Check the tide height for reference if you are planning to cross. It was a little sketchy.

    Beach between Sand Lake and Cape Kiwanda was one of my favorites. Headlands in Pacific city is very expensive but worth it!