For a picturesque spot with the splendor of the Pacific Northwest, look no further than Cape Lookout State Park in Tillamook, Oregon. Cape Lookout is situated on a coastal sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean and is filled with natural beauty and wildlife. Its 2,000 acres of lush primeval forest has more than eight miles of trails to explore. Park your rig at the waterfront campground for easy beach access while you comb for treasures along the coastline. A visit to Cape Lookout is also a great stop on an RV road trip as part of the Three Capes Scenic Loop, along with Cape Kiwanda and Cape Meares. Make the time along the way to see the Cape Mears Lighthouse, which offers some amazing photo ops; the lighthouse is just over 20 minutes from Cape Lookout by car. The rocky coastal views and ancient wooded forests are unique to this part of the country and are spectacular to see any time of year. Cape Lookout is a popular camping and day visit spot during the summer peak season, so be prepared for some company if you’re visiting during this time. Don’t forget to pack warm clothes in your trailer, as even summer nights can be chilly and windy in northern Oregon. Even though the wind may produce chilly nights, it's the same wind that propels hang gliders across the sky. Believe it or not, Cape Lookout State Park is a popular hang-gliding launch area for thrill-seekers. Catch a glimpse of the whales swimming off the tip of the Cape during the gray whale northern migration season of late March to June. Stroll along the beach looking for a message in a bottle or get up close with a natural tide pool and find a starfish. With more than three miles of beach, whether you’re in the mood to relax or explore, you’ll have a chance to do both during your RV trip here.
Cape Lookout State Park is located south of the city of Tillamook, in Tillamook County, in northern Oregon. It is a scenic 1.5-hour drive west of Portland, through Wilbur Pass. US-101 runs along the Oregon coast and provides easy access to the park with signs for the Three Capes Loop. There are no driving restrictions for RVs or trailers inside the park. You should have no problem finding a place to park your trailer in the 300 car parking lot at the day-use area. However, keep in mind that spots may fill up quickly during the peak season. Your best bet is to snag a spot at the campground, park your rig, and head out from there.
Enjoy easy access to the beach, dunes, and ocean views at the Cape Lookout State Park Campground. There are 38 full-hookup sites for your RV base camp, with select sites accommodating rigs up to 60 feet in length. There are 170 tent-only sites with water nearby, and one electrical site with water. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, comfort stations, recycling stations, evening programs, a Junior Ranger program, and firewood available for sale. If you are visiting in the off-season, be advised the RV dumpsite is closed in winter. Reservations may be made up to 9 months in advance.
If you are looking for a more exotic way to camp, try one of the 13 yurts available for rent at the park. Yurts are nomad-style domed tent structures, and the ones at Cape Lookout come with wooden floors, lockable doors, lighting, heating, and beds. There are also six deluxe cabins nestled in the pine forest, which feature modern amenities such as refrigerators, microwaves, barbecue grills, and TV/DVD Players. Pet-friendly accommodations are available for an extra fee.
Young campers, between the ages of six to 12, get a special chance to enroll in the Junior Ranger program at the campground registration booth and receive their own official park passport. Passport stamps are earned for completing fun and educational activities throughout the park as well as during their camping experience. The Junior Ranger program is offered at many Oregon state parks and is a great way to engage the kids during your travels.
If you appreciate the taste of shellfish, roll up your pants legs, grab a shovel and a bucket, and head to the ocean side of the spit for a chance to dig up razor clams. If clams aren't your thing, head to the bay to try your hand at crabbing. The bay is home to numerous species of mollusk and shellfish, all of which help to give seafood lovers a delicious meal. The winter season crabbing in Netarts Bay is said to be the best in all of Oregon.
A brief, family-friendly walk near the campground registration booth is perfect for a short excursion from your rig. Hand-out guides are available to walk you through the exciting sights along the trail. Hiking this trail is a great opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to observe nature and learn about the flora and natural history of the Pacific Northwest.
Picnic next to the ocean and enjoy breathtaking views along with your meal. The large picnic area near the registration booth is big enough for groups and situated near the nature trail. Take advantage of an after-meal walk and observe the scenery, and don’t miss seeing the sun set into the Pacific Ocean horizon after dinner on the beach.
Pack your binoculars in your RV if you want to get a close-up view of the numerous marine and forest birds that populate the park. The tideland crustaceans provide an excellent food source for shorebirds—and offers great bird watching opportunities for you. Frequent sightings along this part of the Oregon coast include peregrine falcon, western gull, black oystercatcher, gray jay, black brant, and red crossbill.
Spend a day in Cape Mears taking photos of the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. It may be small, but its scenic backdrop is a favorite among photographers. The lighthouse is open for tours April through October, but even if you visit in the winter, there are many things to see in Cape Mears, including the octopus tree, which appeared in Ripley's Believe It Or Not. After you've seen the coastal attractions, stop by the Tillamook Cheese Factory and taste some world-famous cheese or attend a wine-tasting at the Blue Heron French Cheese Factory before heading back to your Airstream for the evening.
The Netarts Bay is renowned for its water quality, and with access from Cape Lookout State Park, it is a great place to take your fishing and digging gear out of the trailer. Surfperch, seaperch, greenling, and pile perch are commonly found from the spring to fall seasons. Fishing for redtail surfperch is also excellent off the ocean side of the sand spit.
Oregon’s tidepools draw thousands of curious explorers every year and are a unique feature of this area of the Pacific coast. With a little effort and a healthy amount of caution, you can find crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, anemones, barnacles, surf grass, kelp, and much more. Be mindful of park rules as you head out of your camper and delve into the rocky intertidal areas to glimpse these treasures of the sea.
Cape Lookout State Park is a prime location to watch the gray whale northern migration during the late March to June season. During this time, approximately 18,000 whales will pass through Oregon waters on their way north to Alaska, and often stay within half a mile of the coast. Look for water spouts on the horizon and have your binoculars ready.
For the best views in the park, leave the motorhome behind and enjoy hiking the eight miles of trails in Cape Lookout State Park. The Cape Trail leads to the best viewpoint at the tip of the cape, where there is a bench in the perfect spot to whale watch. The Oregon Coast trails, North and South, offer additional hiking through the forest overlooking the ocean. There is also a self-guided educational nature trail that is family-friendly.
The over three miles of beautiful Pacific coastline beaches at Cape Lookout will make everyone in your RV happy. Wade at the sandy water's edge, take long walks up the coast, and beachcomb for sea treasure like sand dollars, driftwood, tide pools, and glass fishing floats. Watching an oceanside sunset will be the highlight of your trip. Be aware of the changing tides as some areas of the beach disappear at high tide.
If kayaking is your thing, Cape Lookout's 112 miles of shoreline offer gentle waters as well as pounding surf. With two or three miles between the mainland and the islands, even a less experienced kayaker can explore the sound if the conditions are right. Make sure to check out a tide chart from a local marine store and leave a float plan with park staff in case you run into bad weather.