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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Cape Falcon

Finally, I went on a hike without a waterfall!  I actually found Cape Falcon by googling “hikes near Cannon Beach” and choosing a moderately difficult one.  It was my dog Kiki’s first time at the ocean and her first real hike with me so I didn’t want to start her out on something too difficult.

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Absolutely beautiful trail reminded me of the Olympic National Rainforest with all the ferns.

About a mile in to the trail is a fork in which the left path goes down to the campground and a beach.  The right path continues for another mile and a half to Cape Falcon.  On the way up I decided to head to the Cape first and catch the beach on the way back.  I saw a group of about 20 people on a mushroom picking guided hike, which was pretty cool.  I don’t think I would trust myself to identify which mushrooms are safe to eat, but I think it would be fun to pick mushrooms on a hike!

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First view of Neahkahnie Mountain from the trail.

It is about 2.5 miles to Cape Falcon and maybe 500 feet elevation gain, but starts to get EXTREMELY muddy halfway through.  Most of the trail is exposed tree roots with mud puddles in between, which would be fine if I had worn waterproof shoes (I just wore my Nikes), but for a 7 pound Maltese, each tree root was an obstacle for her to jump over.  She also hates getting her paws wet or muddy (I know she’s a spoiled princess) so we went pretty slow for most of the trail.

Cape Falcon has great views of Neahkahnie Mountain and the Pacific Ocean waves crashing against the cliffs.  You can sit and have a snack and walk around to get different ocean views in all directions.

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This is facing the direction opposite of Neahkahnie Mountain.  Views all around!!

On the way back down, I decided to take the route to beach access because Kiki had never seen the beach before.  It is a little over a quarter mile to the beach from the sign on the trail.  It was not a crowded beach because I don’t think many people know about it.  There is also a campground right by the beach that I’d love to stay at one day.  I have never been beach camping but it sounds lovely to sleep listening to the ocean.  I did not spend much time at the beach because it turns out my silly dog hates water and would not even walk in the wet sand…

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Some surfers at the beach, but otherwise quite private and not crowded.

Quick Facts

  • ~5 miles round trip, ~1000 feet elevation gain total
  • Beach access
  • Good parking, no pass needed

Pros

  • Not too crowded
  • Quiet, lesser known beach
  • Beautiful rainforest-like scenery with views of the ocean

Cons

  • Extremely muddy, uneven trail

Umbrella & Sahale Falls

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Umbrella Falls

After the Columbia Gorge fires last year, I have felt some serious waterfall withdrawals.  Luckily, there are plenty in Oregon and Washington if you’re willing to drive a little further.  This past weekend I looked through a book on Waterfalls in Oregon and chose Umbrella Falls because (a) I have never been and (b) it is less than 2 hours away.

The Umbrella Falls Trail (#667) starts in the Mt. Hood Meadows parking lot.  I was disappointed when I saw the waterfall was only 1/4 miles into the trail because I like ending my hikes with waterfalls as a reward. I lucked out because surprise: walking just over a mile past Umbrella Falls is Sahale Falls! Two waterfalls in one hike sounds pretty good to me!

Umbrella Falls reminded me of Ramona Falls in that it cascades and maintains contact with a rocky surface rather than plunges over a cliff.  There is a cute little footbridge over the stream too.  It is so picturesque that I stumped across a photo shoot for a wedding. IMG_0614.JPGThere is a fork in the trail a little bit past Umbrella Falls.  If you want to see Sahale Falls, follow the direction on the sign and go right.  The sign says the Falls are in a mile, but according to my Apple Watch, it is a little further.

It is very easy to miss the turn off to Sahale Falls (in fact, I missed it the first time and added about a mile to my hike before a kind stranger redirected me).  The turn off will be on your right and you will have to scramble down a very steep and dusty path to get a good view of the falls.  I had to slide on my bottom and grab onto tree trunks.  This is why I do not recommend taking small children or a dog on this hike, although I saw two German Shepherds make it down okay (my tiny Maltese would not be so agile). 

The base of the falls is very Gorge-esque.  There is a pool at the bottom of the falls which cascades into smaller waterfalls as the stream continues.  There are rocks you can sit on to eat a snack or take photos of the Falls.  You can even wade or swim in the pool if you do not mind the ice cold water.

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Sahale Falls

I turned around after taking several photos of Sahale Falls and unfortunately most of the elevation gain on this hike is on the way back, once you’re nice and tired.  I gained about 700 feet in 2 miles, so it really wasn’t that bad.  Overall I walked 4.5 miles and gained a total of 1000 feet, but I did add almost one extra mile by passing Sahale Falls and turning around.  The trail does continue past Sahale Falls and who knows what comes next?  It might be worth exploring if you would like a longer hike.

A quick recap of the Umbrella Falls hike:

Quick Facts:

  • ~4 miles out and back, can be made longer
  • ~1,000 feet elevation gain (300 one way, 700 the other)

Pros:

  • Not crowded on a Saturday
  • Two waterfalls
  • Pretty easy Good parking lot

Cons:

  • Very dusty trail (black shoes were grey by the end)
  • Treacherous and easy to miss path to Sahale Falls