Cape Blanco Loop (Oregon Coast) 08-May-2019

We embarked on a week-long trip to the Oregon Coast, partly for hiking and partly to give an invited talk at the Siuslaw Public Library on Oregon’s Wilderness Areas. This is a good time to visit the coast, as its ahead of the busy tourist season and the weather usually (but not always) cooperates with some sunshine. We had originally intended to visit the Japanese Bomb Site near Brookings, but that hike got shelved when we found its access road closed. So, after a night in Gold Beach, we continued north, in sunny 😎 but very windy weather, to do a short hike at Port Orford Heads State Park – an old Coast Guard lifeboat station. This visit gave us a good insight into the effort and dedication required to rescue ship’s crews in the days before powerful surf boats and helicopters.

An historic 36-foot rescue boat at Port Orford Heads State Park
Klooqueh Rock from the northwest headland
Pointed Klooqueh Rock (white specks on the flat rocks below are basking seals)

After that warm-up, we continued on to our main hike for the day at Cape Blanco State Park, site of the oldest (1870) standing lighthouse on the Oregon coast. There we did a loop starting at the Sixes River near the Hughes Historic House, then south along the beach almost to the lighthouse, with a return along the bluffs on parts of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT). About 0.1 miles from the trailhead, there’s an unsigned fork in the trail where we were supposed to turn left (south) if we wanted to cross the bluffs first. Well, we missed that and continued (on an obvious use trail) all the way out to the beach.

At the trailhead, with Castle Rock in the distance
On the (wrong) use trail along the Sixes River, with Castle Rock in the distance
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse to the south, from the mouth of the Sixes River
Castle Rock at the mouth of the Sixes River

Missing that turn actually worked in our favor as it kept the wind at our backs as we walked the beach toward the lighthouse. We’d worn shorts and the blowing sand effected a tingling skin peel on our exposed legs. 😥

On the beach south toward Cape Blanco
The wind was doing its best to polish our legs with blowing sand
Getting closer to the lighthouse
Cape Blanco and its lighthouse

Shortly before actually reaching the cape or the lighthouse, we stumbled upon the unsigned (and minimally marked) use trail that we needed to take us to the top of the bluffs. Fortunately, it’s a popular way to reach the beach from the road to the lighthouse and was easy to follow once we found it.

Climbing through wildflowers to the top of the bluff
Gull Rock (upper L) and Castle Rock (R) from atop the bluff

There are signs for the OCT atop the bluff but also several other use trails and old roads (some of which are part of the OCT), so some map gazing and guidebook consulting was required. The big plus with the forest is that it gave us a break from the wind that was still howling along the beach below.

Consulting the oracle of the guidebook in the forest atop the bluff
Gull Rock (L) and Castle Rock (R) and the beach we’d walked south on

After about a mile through the trees, we emerged into grasslands above the mouth of the Sixes River. Here the trail became a fading old ranch road that we followed back to the trailhead, past a flock of nervous sheep and several placid cows. The LovedOne had her knitting needles standing-by in case the sheep made any suspicious moves. 😉 The turn that we’d missed starting out was more obvious on the way back but, even then, wasn’t easy to pick-out from the various sheep and cow paths in the area.

Descending to the Sixes River with Castle Rock in the distance.
On the old ranch road toward the sheep and the trailhead.

A short (4.3 miles; 200 feet of gain), leisurely, but beautiful, hike on a very scenic part of the Oregon Coast. After a tasty lunch at Redfish in Port Orford, we continued on north to spend the next two days hiking near Bandon. Sorry to disappoint, but this trip was about heroic scenery and not heroic hiking – we have the rest of the summer for that.

Our loop hike at Cape Blanco
Night falls at the coast
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2 comments

  1. Love Cape Blanco State Park and we have hiked that loop many times. Beautiful area and scenery despite the wind and sheep. We once ran into a head of very large momma cows instead of sheep — the cows won and even knitting needles would not have helped!

    1. I think the cows win by creating trails to lure hikers away from the actual trail. It worked with us. If we can’t fend off the cows with our knitting needles, we can always us them to mark the trail. 😉

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