The Oregon Coast is not wanting for stretches of car trip-worthy ocean front. Ask 10 different life-long Oregonians for a list of their favorite spots on the coast and you will assuredly get 10 different lists. Everybody carries a different set of criteria that determines what makes something better than something else. In this case, most folks will probably start with scenery – it has to be beautiful. After that you start splitting into factions. For some, recreational opportunities rank next; or food and drink options. How accessible is this place? Can I bring the family? Then there are the tertiary criteria like geologically unique, culturally significant, etc, etc. This rundown of traits just so happens to be how I determine my favorite coastal haunts. And that’s why Cape Kiwanda is permanently seated at or near the top of my personal list.
Cape Kiwanda occupies a swath of beach in Pacific City that is stunningly beautiful. Comprised of sandstone as opposed to basalt, Cape Kiwanda is a photogenic oddity on the Oregon Coast. Looking out at the lesser known but larger of the two Haystack Rocks that guard the coastline, this is also where Pacific City’s fabled Dory boats launch. And of course, the Pelican Pub & Brewery that calls the cape home is always worth a stop. But somehow, Cape Kiwanda has remained underutilized as a hiking destination.
Now, there aren’t miles of trail to be explored, but this isn’t your typical beach stroll either. By starting at the Pacific Avenue Trailhead, you can enjoy a roughly two mile out and back hike that explores a scenic stretch of beach that approaches the cape from the south. Vehicles are not allowed on the stretch leading up to Kiwanda and most people that visit park at the cape, so this section can be quite peaceful. As you near the large, sandstone bluffs of the cape, watch for doryman launching boats. Ascend the Great Dune and take in the views along the top of the cape. The vibrant orange and yellow hued sandstone cliffs have eroded into a number of curious and photo-worthy patterns over the years, and you could spend a long time taking it all in. There are number of desirable vantages, just make sure to stay behind the fenced areas and abide by all signage.
After you’ve explored to your heart’s content, bound back down the dune, grab a well-earned pint at the Pelican, and make your way back to the trailhead to complete the two-mile hike.