I have to disagree with Ylvis…I’d say the seal goes “ar ar ar” rather than “ow ow ow” (but perhaps Norwegian seals speak differently).  You can decide for yourself if you visit the Sea Lion Caves in Oregon between Florence and Yachats.

Our excursion was on a rare November day with a blazing full sun and no wind.  Drawing on experience from prior visits, I brought along extra layers in preparation for the cool dampness of the cave but had no need to use them.  No swimming mammals decorated the sea cavern during our stop, although when we returned to ground level a couple reported a sighting.  No matter.  We watched a few roll and slither in the waves near the foot of the cliffs.  Even sans pinnipeds, witnessing a piece of Oregon history dating back over 80 years is rewarding.

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North and south views

25 Steps Wheels:

If you find stairs or the steep path too daunting, or you’re on a tight budget, short on time, or claustrophobic, you can skip the cave and head to the left or right of the entrance building.  Breathtaking coastline views spread both north and south.  With the aid of binoculars you may spy a sea lion in the waters below (particularly from the north side of the store).

Walk Details for North and south views
Terrain: Level pavement and sidewalk. There is a curb, but it can be avoided by using one of the sidewalk ramps near each of the store entrance doorways.
Seating: No
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: Nearest are in the store to right of the pay station. You need to ask a clerk for access, since use is limited to those who find it difficult to negotiate the stairs required to reach the posted public restrooms.
Directions: From the parking lot, head to the sidewalk on either the north or south side of the building. Both views differ and are worth a look.

Upper landing

75 Steps Wheels:

The upper landing on the way to the trails is a destination in its own right.   The bronze statue of a Stellar sea lion trio is a must for photos, both on its own and while sitting alongside.  My husband posed mimicking the expression of one of sculpted beasts.  Heceta Head Lighthouse graces the point across the sea to the north.  And on a clear day, you can see the coast stretching all the way to the Siuslaw River North Jetty.

Note: The walk to the landing bench is nearly all indoors, thus there is no destination map.

Walk Details for Upper landing
Terrain: 37 stairs with hand rails in flights of 9, 6, and 22. Flat level concrete between the building exit and the bench to its left. I chose to hand my cane to my husband and utilize the handrails on both sides, for sturdy support during the descent.
Seating: One bench at the bottom of the last flight of stairs. One bench to the left of the building exit.
Fee: There is an entrance fee to descend from the store to the landing, trails, and cave. It’s pretty spendy. A quick stop at the Visitors Center on Highway 101 in Florence gets you a booklet that includes the highest discount coupon we could find ($3 off). Be sure to check the hours of operation, which change seasonally.
Restrooms: Yes, a short walk from the landing bench.
Directions: Follow the clearly marked stairway from within the store, and you’ll reach this landing.

Cave

Extended Wheels:

The main attraction of this venue is, of course, “America’s largest sea cave”.  Unique from other coastal settings, this subterranean destination is more challenging than most 100 Steps locations, but I found the journey both entertaining and gratifying.

You pass two benches on the descent from the upper landing (a 10% to 20% grade, according to the Sea Lion Caves website).  The first resting option is nearly 200 steps, the second an additional 100.  Both offer fabulous oceanscape and Heceta Head Lighthouse vantages.  Another 100 steps reaches the elevator waiting area.  After a ride of over 200 feet, you emerge from the elevator in disconcerting dimness to walk 100 more steps to a seat within the cave.  If you’re having trouble navigating, the helpful sea-cave expert can assist.

Within the damp, stony cavern you can watch an educational video, check out both the human and animal portions of the cave, read lighted signboards explaining local wildlife, and perhaps climb a stairway for additional lighthouse views.   For those keeping track, you’ll notice that from store to cave – excluding side trips – you will have chalked up nearly 600 steps.  Be sure to rest…the return trip is all uphill!

Walk Details for Cave
Terrain: Downhill grade on wide path of bumpy concrete. Cave has the same bumpy concrete, with a rubber covered ramp and handrail between the elevator and the larger portion of the cave. There is an optional 67-step stairway to reach an alternate view of Heceta Head Lighthouse. Lighting in the cave is dim, so footing can be more difficult.
Seating: Two benches en route. Another bench in the cave. There is also seating to watch the informative video.
Fee: There is an entrance fee to descend from the store to the landing, trails, and cave. It’s pretty spendy. A quick stop at the Visitors Center on Highway 101 in Florence gets you a booklet that includes the highest discount coupon we could find ($3 off). Be sure to check the hours of operation, which change seasonally.
Restrooms: No. Nearest are accessed from the upper landing.
Directions: From the upper landing, follow the trail to the right (north). When it ends, take the elevator to the cave.

South trail

Extended Wheels:

If you’ve completed your cave tour and are invigorated for more walking, the south trail is available.  The trek to the cave was plenty for me, so I did not tackle it.  Viewing the trail from above and on Google Maps, it looks like there are two well-spaced benches along the path.  The step counts I provided on the destination map are estimates based on the counts for the cave trail, since the terrain is similar.  I don’t know if there is a bench at the actual viewing area.

Walk Details for South trail
Terrain: Downhill grade on wide path of bumpy concrete.
Seating: Two benches en route.
Fee: There is an entrance fee to descend from the store to the landing, trails, and cave. It’s pretty spendy. A quick stop at the Visitors Center on Highway 101 in Florence gets you a booklet that includes the highest discount coupon we could find ($3 off). Be sure to check the hours of operation, which change seasonally.
Restrooms: No. Nearest are accessed from the upper landing.
Directions: From the upper landing, follow the trail to the left (south).