by Nikki Cleveland
On the south side of Tillamook Bay, Cape Meares is one of the highlights on the Three Capes Scenic Route, a short and scenic byway that also connects Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The state park can easily be reached off Highway 101 about 15 minutes from Tillamook.
The real highlight of Cape Meares is the historic lighthouse. At just 38 feet tall, it’s the shortest lighthouse on the entire Oregon Coast. The park also has scenic viewpoints that can easily be accessed from the parking lot, as well as a few miles of trails that wind through the woods.
Typically, the lighthouse is open for tours from May through October, however, it is closed this summer due to the pandemic. The bottom floor of the lighthouse, which is usually open as a gift shop, is also currently closed.
We enjoyed one of their free informative tours last year of the 1890s lighthouse. They detailed the long history of the lighthouse, how it operated before electricity, and what has happened to it over the years, including a damaging vandalism in 2010.
The viewpoints alone provide lots of opportunities for photography and wildlife watching. During the spring and winter, Cape Meares is a prime destination for watching for the gray whale migration. In the summer, visitors can occasionally spot resident grey whales as well as seals and sea lions. Bird watchers may also be able to spot murres, bald eagles, and falcons.
While you’re visiting, be sure to also take the short trail to see the Octopus Tree. This giant Sitka Spruce, instead of growing straight up, has several massive trunks growing out of the base. The hike is less than a mile round-trip with very little elevation gain, making it doable by hikers of all ages and skill levels.
For more information on Cape Meares and the latest updates on lighthouse tours, see the park’s website.