Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint is a one-stop-shop of scenic viewpoints, wildlife watching, a historic lighthouse, and one uniquely shaped tree.
It’s located just a short drive from Netarts and in between Pacific City and Cannon Beach so it’s a great half-day trip if you’re either staying in the Netarts / Tillamook area or are traveling from Pacific City to Cannon Beach or vice versa.
Why It’s Worth a Visit: Out of all the locations we visited on the Northern Oregon Coast, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint had one of the best variety of easily accessible, dog-friendly, viewpoints and sites to see. If you’re traveling with small children, grandparents, or just want a relaxing spot to take in the sights and sounds of the Oregon coast, this is a place you don’t want to miss.
6 Most Instagram Worth Locations
1. Cape Meares Lighthouse
Cape Meares Lighthouse has been protecting Mariners sailing along the Oregon coast since it was first lit on January 1, 1890. What makes the lighthouse unique is that it features a first-order Fresnel lens. When it comes to size, first-order Fresnel lenses are the largest while sixth-order Fresnel lenses are the smallest.
The lighthouse itself is actually the shortest on the Oregon coast standing at only 38 feet tall. However, because it has a first-order Fresnel lens, the light could be seen from over 20 miles out at sea when it was used.
Fun History: The invention of the Fresnel lens by the French physicist Augustin Jean Fresnel was one of the great innovations to lighthouse technology of its time and was key to keeping sailors safe for years to come.
The unique feature of the beehive-like design at the time was its ability to focus the light into a single beam of light allowing it to be more efficient and to be sent a farther distance. Additionally, it was the only lens design that could create an unlimited variety of different light patterns, which made it easier for Mariners to distinguish it!
Photo Tip #1 (Image Above):
From the top of the walking path, you can get a clear photo of the Fresnel lens with the ocean in the background. The best time to take this photo would be either sunrise or sunset as you might be able to capture some beautiful colors in the photo too!
Photo Tip #2:
Another nice composition of the lighthouse is from the bottom of the walking path with the lighthouse around the bushes. I like this photo because the leading lines of the walking path naturally lead your eyes through the image. Plus, you also get a full view of what the lighthouse looks like.
2. Octopus Tree
The 250-300-year-old Octopus Tree is one of the most uniquely shaped trees that you’ll probably ever get to see. As the name suggests, it kind of looks like an octopus.
The famous Sitka Spruce strangely doesn’t have a middle tree trunk. Instead, it has 5 different tree limbs which extend horizontally for about 30 feet before turning towards the sky and rising to 105 feet.
It’s believed that the local Native Americans shaped the tree to grow in this way and they used the tree for “tree burial” ceremonies.
The Octopus Tree is just a short 0.1-mile walk from the parking lot, so you can easily visit the tree before you head to the lighthouse or just before you leave the area. The trail to get to the Octopus Tree is located past the public restroom. If you find yourself walking back up the main road, you’ve gone too far.
Photo Tip #1 – Focal Length:
Use as wide of a focal length as you can. This photo was shot with a 24mm lens and it still wasn’t wide enough.
Photo Tip #2 – If Lens Isn’t Wide Enough:
If your lens isn’t wide enough to capture the tree, you can also try using panorama mode on your phone. By using panorama mode vertically, you should be able to capture the entire tree.
3. Pillar Rock and Sea Cliffs Viewpoint on Right Side of Parking Lot
On the right side of the parking lot, you’ll find an easily accessible viewpoint with awesome views of Pillar Rock and the surrounding sea cliffs. If you have binoculars or a telephoto lens for your camera make sure to bring it too!
Pillar Rock and the surrounding sea cliffs are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. You’ll mostly see Common Murres, but you might also see Peregrine Falcons, Cormorants, or other types of seabirds.
If you come during whale migrating season (November – December, and March-May), you might also be able to spot migrating whales too!
4. Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge Viewpoint on Left Side of Parking Lot
On the left side of the parking lot, you’ll find another easily accessible viewpoint with a cool view of Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge. Other than Oceanside, this viewpoint is one of the best spots to view Three Rocks Arch National Wildlife Refuge from.
Since it’s a wildlife refuge, it’s closed to the public all year and from May 1st to September 15th the waters within 500 feet of the refuge are also closed off too.
Quick History Lesson: On October 14, 1907, President Roosevelt announced the Three Arch Rocks a National Wildlife Refuge which made it the first wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi River.
However, the real credit for making this happen should go to the conservationists William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman. During a photography trip to the nearby area, they sadly witnessed the destruction of the wildlife habitat from hunters who came to the rocks to hunt sea lions and seabirds.
After documenting and photographing the wildlife in the area and bringing their findings to President Roosevelt, the rest was history.
5. Bench View on Cape Mears Lighthouse Loop Trail
The Cape Meares Lighthouse Loop Trail is the trail that takes you to Cape Meares Lighthouse. When you start walking down the trail towards the lighthouse, you’ll notice a path which takes you to a bench overlooking the ocean.
This is a great spot for a photo as the path creates natural leading lines that bring your eyes through the image.
This is a high-dynamic-range photo with darker shadows and brighter highlights. If you’re using a camera with a histogram, use the histogram to make sure the highlights aren’t blown out. When exposing for the highlights, it might cause the shadows to be darker, but typically, you’ll have more flexibility in bringing up the shadows vs saving the highlights.
6. View of Oregon Coastline from Cape Meares Lighthouse Loop Trail
On the south side of the Cape Meares Lighthouse Loop Trail, you’ll see a wonderful view of the Oregon Coastline that’s definitely worth a photo or two!
From this location, you’ll be able to see Short Beach on the left and Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge on the right which makes for a nice composition.
Photo Tip: Use a wider angle focal length such as 24mm or wider. This way you can capture Short Beach and Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in the same composition while framing it with the bushes in the foreground.