Known for its lighthouse, stunning ocean views, and octopus-shaped Sitka spruce, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint is a must-see when driving the Three Capes Scenic Loop.
From the park’s many viewpoints, you might spot migrating gray whales or other marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins, and porpoise. During our Whale Watch Week programing in December and Spring Break, volunteers are stationed here to help visitors spot migrating whales. No matter what time of year you visit, binoculars are a must!
From April through July, the steep cliffs and offshore rocks are nesting sites for thousands of seabirds, including common murres, pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants and pigeon guillemots. Peregrine falcons occasionally nest on the cliffs in the spring.
While here, be sure to take the 0.1-mile path from the main parking lot to the unusually shaped “Octopus Tree,” named for its thick, sprawling limbs. From a turnoff at the park entrance, a 0.8-mile trail heads north through a forest of old growth spruce that's part of a National Wildlife Refuge. Take the .25-mile spur trail to the largest Sitka spruce tree in Oregon.
This summer the lighthouse and gift shop are open daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Volunteers are at the base of the tower to share lighthouse history. Lighthouse tower tours remain canceled to protect the Fresnel lens.
Cape Meares Lighthouse may be the shortest on the Oregon coast, but it features an impressive, kerosene-powered lens. First lit on Jan. 1, 1890, the first order Fresnel lens was one of the most powerful and largest of its day. Mariners could spot the distinctive red-and-white flashes from more than 21 miles away.
A paved 0.2-mile path leads from the main parking area to the lighthouse, passing many viewpoints and interpretive panels along the way. Service animals are permitted in the gift shop.
Tower tours: Canceled to protect the Fresnel lens.
For more information about Cape Meares, visit the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse website.
Obtained between 1938 and 1968 by lease and purchase from three federal government agencies, the park is surrounded by the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge. The cape itself was once an active lighthouse of the U. S. Coast Guard. The cape is named for the 18th century British naval officer, trader and explorer John Meares.
The lighthouse was built in 1889 and commissioned on January 1, 1890. The tower stands 38 feet high and is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. It is constructed of bricks covered with iron plates. The original addition that now houses the interpretive shop was a work room built in 1895. The current interpretive shop replaced the original work room in 1978.
The lens is a first order Fresnel lens made in Paris, France. It was shipped around Cape Horn, up the west coast to Cape Meares and then hauled 217 feet up the cliff by a wooden crane that was built from local timbers native to the area. It is an eight-sided lens with four primary lenses and four bull's-eye lenses with red panels covering the bull's-eye lenses. It produced about 30 seconds of fixed white light from the primary lens followed by a red flash of five seconds from the bull's-eye lens once every minute. This was the signature of Cape Meares Lighthouse. The primary lens produced 18,000 candlepower and the bull's-eye lens produced 160,000 candlepower. The light could be seen for 21 nautical miles at sea.