Cape Kiwanda is the southernmost of the 3 Capes in the Tillamook area on the Oregon Coast. An Oregon State Parks Natural Area protects this short, dramatic point. The park is too small to have a visitor center or hiking trails, but is a scenic spot for a walk in the sand.
This short trek is 1-mile round trip (or more), beginning from a large beach on the south side of Cape Kiwanda. While walking to the headland, you’ll have views of Haystack Rock, an alluring rock island just offshore. The most rugged and dangerous parts of Cape Kiwanda are fenced-off, but you can get nice views of the cape and the surrounding coastline from a sandy landing that backs the rocky point.
Cape Kiwanda is at the south end of Three Capes Scenic Route, a 40-mile scenic loop that explores the coast of Oregon west of Portland. You can’t really see Cape Kiwanda from your car, so set out on foot from a beachfront parking lot at the north end of Pacific City, alongside Pelican Pub and Brewery.
Walk out to the beach, where the sand offers additional parking for four-wheel drive vehicles. On nice weather weekends, this popular beach can fill with trucks and look like an oceanfront tailgate.
When you reach the hard packed sand on a long, tapered beach, turn right and walk north toward Cape Kiwanda.
Watch waves roll up on the beach at take a good look at Haystack Rock, also known as Chief Kiawanda Rock. This pyramid of dark rock just off the coast is a few hundred feet tall and fairly uniformly shaped, except for a small appendage on the north side that forms a small tunnel. North of here, near Cannon Beach, is another better-known monolith called Haystack Rock.
Walk 1/8 of a mile up the beach and pass a boundary for Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. Just ahead, the beach comes to an end, running into Cape Kiwanda, which juts into the ocean. Tide pools on this side of the cape are fun and easy to explore when the tide is out. A tall dune of sand rises from the inland side of the cape. People march up this steep hill of loose sand in order to slide back down or get grander views up the coast to the north. Great Dune makes an arduous little climb.
To get to the viewpoints behind Cape Kiwanda, you only need to go a short distance up the steep hill. Find a path that curves to the left as it rises to a landing at the beginning of Cape Kiwanda. Slog up this trail through deep sand to a level spot behind the cape where the sand is firmer. As you ascend, look back over the beach for a nice view of the mountains to the south.
On the landing behind the cape, find a fence with a warning sign outlining the dangerous conditions on the other side, which include cliffs, unstable sands, and high waves. Many people disobey this warning, which has resulted in unfortunate deaths and damage to the landscape. Luckily, you have plenty to see from behind the fence.
Turn right and take a path along the fence to find views over a tidal area on the north side of the cape. Below is an unusual landscape covered with green algae. Watch waves roll in from the ocean to a cave carved into the sandstone cliffs on the side of the cape.
Continue along the fence, which bumps out to an overlook. Here you get a fine perspective of the wildly shaped cape, backed by Haystack Rock. Turn north to look up the coast toward Cape Lookout, which extends a couple miles into the ocean and has tall cliffs on its south side topped by Cape Lookout Trail.
Walk north for another 300 feet to a corner in the fence line. Here you get another perspective north toward Cape Lookout through a sandstone formation. The fence rises to the right up the steep hill. With nowhere to go, it is time to turn around and walk half a mile back to the parking lot.
Cape Kiwanda may not have a true trail, but it is a nice place to go for a short hike. Play in the tide pools or walk farther on the beach to extend your day at the coast. No fee is charged to visit Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area and you will not need a permit to hike in the park. Dogs are welcome. Cape Kiwanda is the smallest of the Three Capes and can be visited in conjunction with Cape Lookout and Cape Meares.
Directions to Cape Kiwanda: From the intersection of Highway 101 and Route 6 in Tillamook, head west on Netarts Highway (Route 131), which is straight across Highway 101 from Route 6 for those traveling from Portland. Take Route 131 southwest for 5 miles and bear left on Whiskey Creek Road, following signs for Cape Lookout State Park. Drive another five miles and proceed to the left onto Cape Lookout Road. Drive 5.9 miles (passing Cape Lookout Trailhead) to Sandlake Road and turn right. Drive 6.4 miles to a stop sign and bear slightly right onto McPhillips Drive. Reach the north end of Pacific City after 1.4 miles, where the road becomes Cape Kiwanda Drive, and turn right into a parking area (which Google Maps calls Hungry Harbor Road). Park and begin walking up the beach.
Trailhead address: Hungry Harbor Road & Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City, OR 97135
Trailhead coordinates: 45.2157, -123.9711 (45° 12′ 56.51″N 123° 58′ 15.96″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Oregon trails and campgrounds.
|Cape Lookout Trail|
This 5-mile round trip hike ventures down a promontory on the Oregon Coast with beautiful ocean views.
|Cape Meares Lighthouse & Octopus Tree|
This easy 0.8-mile hike in Cape Meares State Park visits a beautiful lighthouse and an equally impressive tree, exploring a coastal cape with tall cliffs and big ocean views.
|Ecola Point to Indian Beach|
This 2 2/3-mile round trip hike explores a wild and beautiful section of Oregon Coast Trail between Ecola Point and Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.
|Trails in Oregon|
Explore more hikes throughout the state of Oregon.