The beautiful Oregon Coast Trail, or OCT for short, is a 400-mile route that runs from the mouth of the Columbia River to the city of Brookings on the states south coast.
It doesn’t get much more beautiful than coastal Oregon. Thanks to a pioneering beach bill, all 400 miles of Oregon’s coastline remain free and public. That means endless opportunities to comb for agates or glass floats, catch your own Dungeness crab or razor clam, make footprints in the sand or simply be captivated by the crashing waves. Traverse sandy beaches, forested trails, stunning headlands, seven counties and twenty-eight towns as you discover the pure Pacific beauty of the Oregon Coast Trail. Patient observers can search for sea lions and seals, gray and humpback whales, and even vast herds of elk. Throughout the route, Oregon’s charming coastal communities are filled with unique character, and feature coffee houses, craft breweries, and delicious restaurants serving Oregon’s maritime fare.
History buffs can explore the routes 11 lighthouses, which are rich with fabled stories and breath-taking vistas:
#1 – Tillamook Rock Lighthouse – this might be the most unique lighthouse in the entire state. Known as ‘Terrible Tilly’, it was built on a tiny island more than a mile off the Oregon Coast. Because of its distance offshore, you will need a clear day to catch a glimpse of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The best place to spot ‘Tilly’ is from the shorts of Indian Beach which is approximately three miles north of Cannon Beach.
#2 – Cape Meares Lighthouse – the shortest lighthouse on the list, with a tower that sits a mere 38 feet above the ground. Getting to see this little beauty is easier than most, as it sits perfectly along the OCT just 200 yards down a paved path on the cliffs of Cape Meares.
#3 – Yaquina Head Lighthouse – perched atop a headland just north of Newport. Yaquina Head is the tallest lighthouse tower on the Oregon Coast, standing 93 feet tall. You’ll see the outline of the lighthouse and its repeated bursts of light as you hike closer and closer towards Yaquina Head. If you want a close-up look, you’ll need to make an additional one-mile trek (each way) to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
#4 – Yaquina Bay Lighthouse – sitting just five miles from the Yaquina Head Lighthouse at the mouth of Yaquina River, this historic lighthouse was built in 1871. Although this lighthouse is 51 feet tall and sits on the bluff over the river, it isn’t the typical tower-style structure like the other lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. Instead, the light was attached just above the roof of the lightkeeper’s living quarters.
#5 – Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse – the first of two privately built lighthouses on this list. It was built in 1976 by a former Tillamook Head attendant and lighthouse historian. To see this incredible structure, you will need to make a slight detour off the OCT, however, the lighthouse is unfortunately closed to the public so its only viewpoint is from the roadside.
#6 – Heceta Head Lighthouse – Standing just 56 feet tall, this white tower has a distinctive red metal roof and is the most photographed lighthouse on the entire trail. Its beautiful location on the OCT means hikers won’t need to deviate from their planned route to see it.
#7 – Umpqua River Lighthouse – located at the mouth of Winchester Bay, this lighthouse was the first ever to be built on the Oregon Coast in 1855. Due to its close proximity to the river, it actually collapsed in 1865 and took Congress approximately 25 years to rebuild a new lighthouse. When re-building the lighthouse, they moved it ever so slightly, so this magnificent lighthouse now sits on the bluffs around 100 feet above the river, to avoid another disaster.
#8 – Cape Arago Lighthouse – the only lighthouse on the OCT that is owned by the indigenous people of Oregon. Unfortunately, you can’t get too close to this lighthouse as the bridge that once connected the island to the mainland was dismantled and never rebuilt. Therefore, the best place to view this lighthouse is from a viewpoint approximately 700 yards west of Sunset Beach on Cape Arago.
#9 – Coquille River Lighthouse – originally built in 1895 to assist ships entering the river. Unfortunately, a massive forest fire swept through the local town in 1936, consuming nearly the entire town. Thankfully, the lighthouse was spared, thanks to its location on the opposite side of the river. The best viewing opportunity for this incredible structure is to plan a walk from Old Town Bandon to the nearby beach. However, if you’d prefer a close-up view, plan a visit to Bullards Beach State Park, the lighthouse is located on the river within the state park.
#10 – Cape Blanco Lighthouse – located atop one of the windiest headlands on the Oregon Coast, with wind speeds up to 100 mph. In good weather, you should begin seeing the 20-second flashes from this light somewhere north of Floras Lake. After crossing the Sixes River, the OCT climbs the steep bluffs of Cape Blanco, and a paved path takes you the final 300 yards to the lighthouse on the top of the cape.
#11 – Pelican Bay Lighthouse – the final lighthouse on the OCT and the second of two privately owned lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. This beautiful lighthouse is located in the Port of Brookings on the south side of the Chetco River. The lighthouse is actually attached to one of the local’s homes and because it’s so private, the short tower makes it looks more like a nautical-themed restaurant than a typical lighthouse. Nonetheless, it can still signal up to 12 miles out to sea.
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