Sunset Bay State Park and the surrounding area is one of our favorite places to camp and tour. It offers fabulous views from rugged cliffs as well as easy-access beach walking. Several picnic tables are easily accessible from the Day Use Area parking. There is volley ball net for summer, and lots of sand and shoreline to enjoy. The drive on Cape Arago Highway is beautiful without ever leaving your car – but I highly recommend getting out to take a closer look and enjoy the wonderful fresh ocean air. Trails are plentiful throughout the area, but all of them are 2 or more miles long. Here are a few shorter options to consider.

For many years Sunset Bay was my absolute favorite beach walking location.  Just a few level steps to reach sand and not much farther to get your toes wet by gently lapping waves made it ideal for folks of all mobility levels.  But a visit in February 2016 revealed strong seas churned by winter storms had washed away much of the beach and left a steep, eroded drop off between parking and beach access.  So sad!
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Picnic area bridge

50 Steps Wheels:

A big storm hit the night before we visited this destination. The stream that runs through the picnic area to the ocean first passes through the campground where we stayed. When I saw that the stream bed was nearly full, I decided to visit this bridge to get another view. It is usually not as full (or as dirty!) as depicted in the photo. The bridge is nestled in the trees and leads to a path that continues to the cliffs and rocks on the west side of Sunset Bay.

Walk Details for Picnic area bridge
Terrain: Somewhat uneven pavement, then level decking on the bridge. If you continue past the bridge (not included in the step count) the path is dirt and later sand mostly level but uneven.
Seating: No, although the other side of the parking lot has several picnic tables in the grass.
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: Yes, accessed via sidewalk from parking lot.
Directions: Turn left as you enter the Sunset Bay Day Use Area parking lot. The parking spaces to the right as you face the restroom building are closest to the bridge. You can see the bridge from the parking lot.

Bay beach, west end

25 Steps Wheels:

Beautiful beaches in Oregon are plentiful. Yet most seem to require traversing dunes, driftwood, rocks, or a long uneven path to gain access to the actual shoreline. Not so with the beach at Sunset Bay! Unobstructed sand is right next to the parking lot. The step count above is to the sand. The number of steps from there to dip your toes in the water will vary based on the tide, but in several visits I’ve never seen it more than another 50. Whether to the water, or just along the shoreline you can make your beach stroll as long (or short) as you like.

Walk Details for Bay beach, west end
Terrain: Pavement and then sand, all level or nearly level.
Seating: No, although I find sand can be pretty comfortable and sometimes there are driftwood logs that may suffice.
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: About 1/10 of a mile from the Day Use Area entrance.
Directions: Head to the parking spots straight ahead as you enter the Sunset Bay Day Use Area parking lot. The easiest beach access is at the left end of the fence as you face the ocean. Other entries have a small hill to negotiate.

Bay beach, east end

25 Steps Wheels:

Alternately or perhaps in addition to walking the south west end of the beach, you can drive to the north-east end of the parking lot and walk the beach from this end. This area is not quite as easy to access, but still easier than most Oregon beaches. It offers an alternate view of bay and rock outcroppings. These are fun to watch after a storm as the spray will cyclically overcome the rocks as it crashes on them from the far side. Nearby cliffs and rocks can be accessed from this end of the beach, and it seems to always have at least one person exercising their canine friend.

Walk Details for Bay beach, east end
Terrain: Pavement and then sand, all level or nearly level.
Seating: No, although I find sand can be pretty comfortable and sometimes there are driftwood logs that may suffice.
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: About 1/10 of a mile from the Day Use Area entrance, or 1/4 of a mile from the north/east end parking.
Directions: Turn right as you enter the Sunset Bay Day Use Area parking lot. Pass the restroom building and continue to the end (another 1/4 mile). All parking spaces on the beach side of the lot have similar access to the beach.

Cape Arago Lighthouse viewpoint

75 Steps Wheels:

We stopped at this turnout yet never left the car on several visits before we decided to get out and follow the path. I’m so glad I did! It leads to a bench which offers spectacular views of nearby cliffs, rock formations in the ocean, and Cape Arago lighthouse across the bay. The vantage from the bench rather than the road really brings you closer to it all.

Walk Details for Cape Arago Lighthouse viewpoint
Terrain: 10 stairs with railings, then uneven pavement. In wet weather there can be a puddle just before the bench. If you bypass the stairs, the path is dirt (which is mud in wet weather).
Seating: Bench with back at the end of the path
Fee: No fee
Restrooms: No
Directions: The turnout is nearly 3/4 of a mile past the Day Use Area entrance. From the turnout, head down the stairs and follow the path. The step count above accesses the path via the stairs. The stairs can be bypassed by taking the trail that starts past the railing near the left end of the turnout, which adds about 50 steps to the trip.