sandy beach peppered with rock shale, tree line to the left curving across the image in the rear. cloudy and tranquil.
Cape Lookout State Park

Share |

Cape Lookout State Park is a compact yet high quality outdoor experience along the Oregon coast. But getting here is not necessarily easy. Most visitors will reach the park by driving an hour and a half due west of Portland along the scenic Wilson River pass (otherwise known as Highway 6). If you like rivers, this drive is a real treat. You'll pass through the agriculture town of Tillamook, then head southwest for 9.65 miles to the campground.

The park offers a towering old growth forest, three miles of beach, and a stunning cape that looms five hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean.

grassy cliff overlooking Pacific opcean, forest, and beach
Amazing views from the Cape Trail.

Not many state parks are as impressive as Cape Lookout. Although only 2014 acres, it packs a very heavy scenic punch, especially for those who enjoy mediaeval forests and ocean ecosystems. Surprisingly, the park sees only 136,000 visitors a year. We had assumed this would be much higher, but perhaps the mandatory $5 entrance fee and high camping fees have something to do with it.

Cape Lookout State Park came to fruition in 1935, when the U.S. Lighthouse Service donated 975 acres to the state. In the following years, more land was acquired by piecemeal, leading to today's relatively intact park.

The campground portion of Cape Lookout didn't begin until 1952, and only grew from there. I think some might feel that the campground grew too much. This is only one of two negatives we have of this scenic park. The campground simply takes up too much real estate, and just sort of squats there next to the beach. Although much of the campground is aesthetically pleasing, one can't help but feel as if it's just too much when factoring in the overall size of the park. The campground should be scaled back and some of the native ecosystem restored.

Those interested in World War II history would find it fascinating that on August 1, 1943, an Air Force B17 crashed into the cape. You can find the memorial plaque on the main cape trail.

And this brings us to the other negative which thankfully doesn't affect the campground. However, it does affect the cape trail. When hiking the trail, you'll notice horrendous noise coming from the south. This is due to the lovely Sand Lake Recreation Area, which allows unlimited motorized vehicles to roar along the beech and dunes. We've hiked and camped quite a few parks and forests, and this is one of the most egregious disturbances we've come across.

But don't let the negatives get you down. Cape Lookout State Park is worth a long weekend, and if you're in Portland, it's a great way to get a non-touristy taste of the amazing Oregon coast. We highly recommend it. I was struck by the ambiance of the place, and I couldn't help but feel a touch of regret upon leaving. I didn't get a chance to see much wildlife beyond gulls, but you can expect the full array of coastal flora and fauna.


Cape Lookout campground facts:

Video Tour available: Coming soon.
Open: All year
Sites: 170 (35 with full hookup, 13 yurts, 6 cabins)
Laundry: No (9.56 miles north to Tillamook)
Showers: Yes
Dump Station: Yes, but not winter
Store: No (Tillamook)
Quiet Hours: 10 am to 8 am
Fee: $17 tent, $40 yurt, $22 full hookup, cabin $61
Vehicle length limit: 31 foot RV or 27 foot trailer
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Toilets: Yes | Tables: Yes | Fire rings: Yes
Water: Yes
Only Three tents per site or one RV, max 6 people
Elevation: 10 feet to 581 feet
Fishing: Pacific Ocean
Generator: Yes (8 am to 8 pm reasonable usage)
Gas: No (9.56 miles north to Tillamook)
Repairs: No(9.56 miles north to Tillamook)
Reservations: (503) 842-4981


misty campsite with picnic table, paved rive, and leafless bushes

A misty campsite.

sandy road with closed sign, beach on left, campsites on right

Road closed. This part of the campground should be reclaimed by nature.


Cape Lookout Campground Review:

Location: 8
Scenery: 8
In-campground aesthetics: 8
Unnatural Noise: 5
Cleanliness: 7
Site Privacy: 6

Parkcamper Rating: 7/10

sandy road, pine trees on left, sand and grass on right. Cloudy, deserted, but pretty.

Main campground drive, beach to the right.

mowed green grass, overhanging fir branhces, brown state park entrance sign made of logs, road to the right

A warm greeting sign.

huge mossy tree on the left, winding trail, verdant forest with vines and moss

The Cape Lookout main trail is a must-do.




Check out our campground tours for your iPod, iPhone, Android, iPad, or desktop. Like our new Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter, mail and request your free Yellowstone campground!




Parkcamper: Northern Rocky
Mountains Edition features
the campgrounds of Glacier,
Yellowstone, Grand Teton,
Badlands and Theodore
Roosevelt National Parks.
Click the DVD to order!