camping: Oregon Coast – Cape Lookout in the winter
Winters in the Pacific Northwest can be dreary, with endless days of rain. However, it can also be a great time to camp at the coast whenever there’s a break in the wet weather.
Camping in the winter tends to revolve around the weather conditions, as it did on this trip to Cape Lookout. A friend and I left Portland on a Friday afternoon and it was foggy and cold when we arrived at our campsite so we warmed up next to a campfire while we cooked dinner.
I’ve camped at Cape Lookout at least 17 times but this was my first time here in the winter. The section of the campground that I normally tent camp at was not open, and all of the hiking trails here have been closed since a major landslide took out the trails during the Labor Day storm, so it definitely felt different. Some of the campsites had quite a bit of water and mud, including ours.
This was my second trip in my car camper setup… it’s nice to have a warm place to spend time when it gets dark early, and to sleep in without worry of high winds or heavy rain. Learn more about my setup in this blog post.
We’re both avid landscape photographers and were were thrilled to have clear skies for shooting photos of the stars the first night. The orange light on the horizon is from a ship, not the sun, and the uprooted tree on the beach frequently moved when covered by incoming tides.
On the first morning, we awoke to a pastel color-filled sky at sunrise. I got up a bit late and ran towards the beach to take photos as soon as I saw the sky.
On Saturday, we left the campground to explore a bit of the area around us, and then came back and walked on the beach at low tide. We were hoping to have good color for sunset, but a thick marine layer stuck around all day and when it started raining later that night, we were happy to have our car campers to retreat to.
On the last morning, I saw the largest waves I’ve ever seen at the coast. King tides were expected the next day, but I think they arrived early. Rangers came out to tell us it wasn’t safe to stand on the foredune where I took most of these photos the day before, and they ended up closing off access to the beach due to the dangerous conditions. Some of the high waves came up and over the foredune, carrying debris from the ocean that was left on the campground road. Stormwatching is a popular activity for some at the coast, and while I can certainly see why, I’d want to be at a higher location to take it all in safely.