Cape Perpetua

Cape Perpetua has been on my list for a long time (I know I say that about almost every hike…), ever since my boyfriend told me about it when we first met ~3 years ago. We’ve been wanting to go for a long time, but it’s so darn far from Portland: 3.5 hours!

Today I finally got the chance, as I was in Corvallis, OR for the weekend and only had to drive 1.5 hours to Cape Perpetua. I parked at the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center and took the Cape Cove Trail under the highway, then took a left turn towards Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn. After checking out those views, I went back to the original intersection and took the right turn, leading towards Devil’s Churn. After seeing Devil’s Churn, I went back the way I came and back to the Visitor’s Center. My entire route was about 2.5 miles and 450 feet in elevation gain.

Thor’s Well is a big hole in the tidepools, most likely started as a sea cave, that appears to drain the ocean. With each wave, water crashes into the walls and sprays the surrounding area. I don’t think I went at the right time, but try to time your visit an hour before high tide so you can see the well fill up and then produce explosive waves.

Right after Thor’s Well is Spouting Horn, an “ocean geyser.” With each wave, water is forced through a hole in the shore and produces what looks like a geyser. This was my favorite attraction of the trip. If you go back past Thor’s Well and follow the trail to Devil’s Churn, you’ll pass beautiful ocean views and coastal forests.

Devil’s Churn

After Devil’s Churn, I headed back to the Visitor’s Center where I parked and realized that I was only a 20 minute drive from the Florence Sea Lion Caves. Again, this is something I’ve wanted to see since I was a little kid.

Sea Lion Caves

The Sea Lion Caves in Florence, Oregon have been privately owned since 1932 and costs $14 admission for adults. It is the largest sea cave in America and has wild Stellar Sea Lions and California Sea Lions that come and go as they please. I am glad that I went, but overall the attraction is probably much better for young children and very overpriced. You’ll take an elevator down to the caves, and there’s pretty much one window that you can look through to see the cave. Including reading every sign and watching a 6-minute documentary, I was in-and-out in about 15 minutes. I just hope the price of admission goes towards sea lion conservation, in which case it is justified.

Quick Facts

  • Views of Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and Devil’s Churn
  • Park and start trail at Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center (NOT day use area and NOT the Cape Perpetua Trailhead that Google maps will take you to)
  • Recreation pass needed
  • ~2.5 miles and 450 feet elevation gain
  • Out-and-back type
  • Access to beaches and tidepools

Pros

  • Accessible for people of varying fitness levels (and dogs)
  • Beautiful views of the ocean
  • Several other trails and campgrounds nearby
  • Close to Florence Sea Lion Caves

Cons

  • Trail is paved and alongside the highway, so it is not as remote and natural as I would like
  • Sea Lion Caves is overpriced and better suited for young children
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