Although three of Oregon’s seven coastal counties boast sea stacks dubbed Haystack Rock, the water encircled boulder at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is distinguished by a keyhole on its north face. Also known as Chief Kiawanda Rock, it is the tallest of the Haystack trio. Nearly a mile off shore its girth still manages to dominate the area.
The other notable landmark is the area’s namesake, the cape itself. The more vigorous can hike atop the golden horizontal striations of this imposing promontory, accessed via a steep sand hill. (The dots on the mid-hill in the slideshow below are people, to give you some perspective on its stature.) My husband and I chose to observe it from the beach, which is a veritable hub of activity. Surfers, stand-up paddle boarders, kayaks, walkers, runners, dogs, cars, and trucks were generously scattered in the waves and on the shore. And this was in December – the “off” season.
Cape Kiwanda is the most southern cape on the Three Capes Loop, which also includes Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. Unlike its cousin headlands, and rather rare for Oregon in general, at Cape Kiwanda you can step out of your car directly into sand. There’s immediate satisfaction for those who love beach strolling! I find traversing loose sand a strain on the ankles, so this suited me very well. I could choose my own count of steps prior to settling on the fine grains to enjoy the surroundings.
|Terrain:||Medium packed sand, level for a distance. Downward slope leads to more firmly packed sand and eventually the water’s edge. Perhaps 150 steps to the water, depending on the tide.|
|Seating:||No, although the sand is always available.|
|Fee: No fee|
|Restrooms:||Yes, in the northeast corner of the parking lot.|
|Directions:||From Highway 101, head west toward Pacific City. From Cape Kiwanda Drive, turn left into the parking lot on Hungry Harbor Road. You can park in the lot, on thin sand, or even on the beach.|