Cape Arago State Park offers panoramic views of the three separate coves that surround it and the broad span of ocean beyond. It has a more rugged and desolate feel than the nearby Sunset Bay and Shore Acres state parks. The beaches below the cliffs are common destinations for visitors, but it’s a steep descent to reach them. The park can still be enjoyed from the cliffs above. Cameras and binoculars will help capture the ocean and sea life antics.

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Simpson Reef overlook

25 Steps Wheels:

I always stay longer than anticipated when we stop at Simpson Reef overlook. Protected from the wind more than any other easily accessible part of the cape, it is a peaceful place to take in the view. Seals of several types lounge, frolic, and bark on rocks of Shell Island. Pelicans enjoy ridge lifting the rock face. Beyond the seals, the slightly more distant reef is part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the cape’s North Cove can be glimpsed to the south. A helpful sign in the parking area shows a map of the area and describes the native wildlife.

Walk Details for Simpson Reef overlook
Terrain: Flat pavement and sidewalk
Seating: Four backless benches
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: No
Directions: About 1 mile past the Shore Acres entrance sign, you’ll see the turnout and parking on the right just after the Simpson Reef sign.

Rock structure

100 Steps Wheels:

Perched above the cape’s Middle Cove, this structure offers a rocky seat to view the wide-open ocean stretching to the horizon. My visits to this destination have always been brief. The views are spectacular, but so is the wind! Continuously exposed to the harsh elements, this area has withstood years and years of varied Oregon precipitation, from drizzle to deluge. You may need to weather some yourself in order to partake of the sights here.

Walk Details for Rock structure
Terrain: Uneven paved pathway, mostly level
Seating: There are 2 benches in the rock formation, but you need to walk up two rock stairs with no railings to get to them.
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: No
Directions: About 3/4 of a mile past Simpson Reef, you’ll see the rock structure in the distance and parking nearby.

Picnic viewpoint

125 Steps Wheels:

After several visits, I still kept sensing I was missing something in Cape Arago State Park, like I was overlooking a hidden gem. On my visit in February 2012, I was determined to find it. As we passed this grassy picnic area, the wind was raging and it was starting to rain. Still, I requested my husband escort me to the bench near the cliff’s edge. Not at all hidden but certainly a gem, even in the harsh conditions of our visit the stop was definitely worthwhile. The benches afford prime viewing of South Cove, which lays beneath the steep cliffs.

Walk Details for Picnic viewpoint
Terrain: Uneven grass of different lengths which can be disconcerting for stable footing. About halfway to the benches there is a short slope of medium steepness. Extra care should be taken to reach this destination.
Seating: Two benches with backs, four picnic tables
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: Not at the picnic area, but they can be accessed from the parking area up the sidewalk trail past the gazebo.
Directions: Shortly after leaving the parking area for the rock structure, you’ll see a gazebo on the left. Park by the gazebo; the picnic area is across the road.