Cape Lookout State Park campground
The campground at Cape Lookout State Park provides access to an undeveloped 7-mile section of sandy beach – perfect for beach walks, kite flying, and sunset viewing.
Cape Lookout was formed 15 million years ago when massive lava floods flowed down the Columbia River and fanned out down the coastline, hardening into basalt headlands. The headland at Cape Lookout juts 2 miles into the ocean, providing sweeping views of the coastline to the north and south. The campground is located on a strip of land between the Cape and Netarts Bay, and is separated from the beach with a foredune to protect the park from winter storms.
This is a large campground with a focus on tent campsites, but there are also full-hookup sites for RVs as well as yurts and cabins. My favorite section is the end of the A and B loops where there are tall trees to camp under and shrubs providing privacy between the sites. There are also a lot of grassy sites that are in the open if that’s your preference. The C and D loops have a mix of RV sites and tent sites, and most have good tree cover and privacy.
Amenities at Cape Lookout include showers with hot water, a recycling center, and firewood available for sale. Beach access is easy via short trails over the foredune that separates the campground from the oceanfront.
- Location: North Oregon Coast – Google map
- Campground & park info: Cape Lookout State Park
- Campsite cost: tent sites – $23 per night; RV sites – $35 per night
- Season: open all year (with partial campground closures in the winter)
- Facilities: 170 tent campsites; 38 full-hookup campsites; 13 rustic yurts; 6 deluxe cabins; hiker/biker camp
- Amenities: potable water, flushing toilets, showers, picnic tables, fire pits, ranger-led activities in the summer
- Nearby town for supplies: Tillamook (10 miles) – gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores
- Reservations: available up to six months in advance at Reserve America
Hiking trails near the campground
Cape Lookout Trail
Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 400 ft.
Hike the length of Cape Lookout, a basalt headland with spectacular views 400 feet above the ocean. At the trailhead, take the Cape Trail for 2.5 miles as it juts westward into the Pacific ocean. Since this part of the Oregon coast receives about 100 inches of rain each year, the trail is often wet and mucky, so plan on getting your boots or shoes muddy. Heading through a dense forest of old-growth Sitka spruce with an understory of ferns, salal, and salmonberry, openings in the trees offer views to the south of a secluded beach accessible via the South Trail junction at the beginning of the hike. At about .6 miles in, a marker commemorates a WW II B-17 bomber that crashed nearby. At 1.2 miles in, a railed overlook provides views to the north, showing the waves crashing below at the edge of the cape. A couple of sections of the trail are along open cliffs with 400 feet drop-offs, so be careful to watch your step here. Openings in the dense forest offer views to the north of Cape Meares, Three Arch Rocks, Netarts Spit, and the campground at Cape Lookout State Park. The end of the cape is railed, with views to the north obstructed by trees, but the views of the ocean stretch out endlessly westward, and to the south look out toward Cape Kiwanda and Cascade Head.
Distance: 10.6 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: none
This hike heads north on the beach on a narrow strip of land known as Netarts Spit. Since part of the beach gets cut off during high tides, plan to do this hike at low tide. Follow an access trail to the beach, and head north for five miles to the end of the spit at the opening of Netarts Bay. Along the beach, the bay is hidden from site by short dunes, but there are several areas along the dune to climb up for a view of the bay and Coastal Mountains behind it. To the north, the small beach communities of Oceanside and Netarts are visible. About a half-mile off the coastline, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge provides protection for more than 150 species of birds, including Oregon’s largest breeding colony of tufted puffins. At the end of the spit where the ocean and the bay meet, the waves change direction, angling towards shore, splashing into small pools of water along the shoreline. At the tip of the cape, harbor seals sometimes gather to sun, and at low tides, the bay’s mud flats are a popular spot for clamming. Return the same way.