Mileage: 2.2-4 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 220/245ft
Map: Oregon Hikers
12/29/2016 I have visited Cape Kiwanda several times over the years but this trip we had time to climb that towering 220ft wall of sand, the Great Dune, and explore what it has to offer.
Cape Kiwanda is part of the Three Capes Scenic Route and it’s large solitary sea stack draws thousands of visitors every year. We accessed the hike from the popular Cape Kiwanda TH (after eating lunch at the pub above), but there is also another TH south on Pacific Ave that allows for a bit more time walking without the crowds.
We strolled to the right and watched the waves crash up on the sandstone cliffs that are slowly being etched away by the pounding water. There was clearly a more gradual path to the left but we opted to take the steeper slope on the right. Go big or go home.
The sand was easier to climb than I thought, I imagined it would be like my trip to Great Sand Dunes NP in August but the sand underneath had moisture and held steps rather than let you slide back down. It didn’t take us long to reach the top.
Looking down, the sea comes into tunneled coves that spout foam up into the air with grand flair. You can see the walls of the cliff have slid off in chunks and yet footprints of careless folks assuming they won’t be the next to succumb were visible crisscrossing the sand.
Following the ridge to the west through some windblown pines, we dropped down toward the lower trail and closer to the sea to watch the waves lap against the black rock and caves. There are fences up to keep us back safely from the edge (and footprints on the other side from those who ignore the warnings of collapsing cliff walls posted everywhere).
There was even a crack in the rock in one spot where the sea foam slides up and shoots out spectacularly. I can’t imagine what that will do to the rock over time.
We followed the fence line around on both sides and then made our way back down to the beach on the more gradual path and finished our walk along the beach as the sun began to fall.
Directions: Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is located in Pacific City off HWY 101, south of Lincoln City or north of Neskowin. The Cape Kiwanda TH is located at 33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr. If you continue south from here on Cape Kiwanda Drive, you will turn right on Pacific Ave to access the other TH. You do not need a parking pass.