Cape Meares Lighthouse & Trails

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Cape Meares sign
Netarts, OR
State Park Website

GPS Coordinates:
45.4866° N
123.9784° W

My visit:  October 8, 2015

I visited here while staying at Cape Lookout State Park, about 12 miles away.  The lighthouse was commissioned on January 1, 1890.  It was decommissioned in 1963 and subsequently heavily vandalized (jerks!).  Lighthouse Friends has some interesting history of the lighthouse and its keepers, including the death of one of them and a gross injury of a child of another.  At one point, the four prisms of the lens were stolen; one was recovered in a drug raid in Portland and the others eventually found their way back.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Go Tillamook website info:  This truly unique lighthouse proudly bears the title of the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. At only 38-feet-tall, Cape Meares Lighthouse may not be colossal in size, but it is a delightful sight to see nonetheless.

Cape Meares Fresnel LensThe lens is a first order Fresnel lens made in Paris, France. 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. The light could be seen for 21 nautical miles at sea.

Its signature was 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.

Despite the info on Cape Meares that the lighthouse is open from April 1 – October 31 (weather permitting), the sign said closed for the winter on the day I was there, October 8, 2015.

Cape Meares viewpoint

The spot is also a designated wildlife refuge and signs along the walkways and viewpoints tell of the inhabitant seabirds and times of year for whale watching.

Cape Meares Viewpoint cave

When I was here, however, there was nothing to be seen in that regard, but just the views themselves were incredible enough.


Octopus Tree

The easy 1/10 mile trail is across from the parking area to the lighthouse.

Cape Meares Octopus Tree Trail

The trail getting there is level and full of worthy trees to see before getting to the main event.

Cape Meares Octopus Tree

Legend of the Octopus Tree:  In earlier days, Oregon Coast activist Sam Boardman recognized the tree as one of several “Indian Ceremonial Trees” trained over time, a common practice of the Coast tribes. One of the many sacred evergreens on the North Coast, the Octopus Tree was specially venerated, probably serving as the gathering site for important Tillamook tribal rites.

Another Legend says “Tradition that has been handed down by Native Americans is that the eerie giant Sitka Spruce tree … is a burial tree shaped when it was young to hold canoes of a chief’s family.”

From info sign:  “The forces that shaped this unique Sitka spruce have been debated for many years. Whether natural events or possibly Native Americans were the cause remains a mystery. The tree measures more than 46′ in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16′ before turning upward. It is 105′ tall and is estimated to be 250 to 300 years old.”


Big Spruce

Before or after getting to the lighthouse, be sure to stop at the parking area above it for the 1/4 mile trail to Big Spruce.  I had been told about him and I wasn’t about to miss this giant guy.

Cape Meares Big Spruce trail

Even though not far or terribly difficult, I recommend using a hiking stick for this trek because it makes it easier to walk around the tree when you get there.  And on the way there, there are some interesting trees with stories to tell of how they got this way, I’m sure.

Cape Meares Big Spruce 2

It’s really hard to see in a picture how massive this old guy is.  From info sign:

“This Sitka Spruce was designated the state champion in 2008 for being the largest of its species in Oregon. Standing 144 feet tall, 48 feet in circumference and 15-1/2 feet in diameter, it is estimated to be 750 to 800 years old.”

Cape Meares Big Spruce 1

You can get up to it and walk around for different views of this wondrous creature.


Trail to Ocean:

Cape Meares trail to ocean

In the opposite direction from the trail to Big Spruce is another trail that leads to the ocean in about 2 miles.  I went down it a little ways and could see some glimpses of the ocean down and below the trail, but I was too tired at that point to make it all the way.  I’d also heard that you can’t get to the beach during high tide and I wasn’t sure what the stage was at that point.  Sure was a pretty trail, though.


I was staying at the campground at Cape Lookout State Park when I visited here (about 11 miles away).   Cape Meares and Cape Lookout are part of the Three Cape Scenic Route, sometimes called a loop.  However, the road is closed just north of Cape Meares due to a mudslide having washed out the road. As of 2015, there is no estimate as to when it might reopen, but the rest of the route can be accessed by going back and around this point.

Oceanside signNote:  There is parking and turn-around for RVs at the lighthouse parking lot but if you’re thinking of going into the town of Oceanside before then, there is nowhere to park or easily turn around there.  In fact, on the sign pointing to Oceanside Beach, it is marked “No RVs or Trailers” so don’t go that way.

It’s about 3 miles from this intersection to the lighthouse, but if you’re in a small vehicle, don’t miss Oceanside Beach.  It’s a beautiful beach and it has a neat tunnel you can walk through to get to great views of the water and seastacks.  Here’s my page on that.

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