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Hiking Oregon’s Lighthouses

November 22, 2019

By John Sparks, Volunteer, Trailkeepers of Oregon

Oregon’s 12 lighthouses range from the Warrior Rock Light on Sauvie Island in the Columbia River to the Pelican Bay Lighthouse at Brookings. Licensed by the Coast Guard in 1999, the Pelican Bay Light is one of the country’s newest as well as one of Oregon’s two private lighthouses, along with Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse near Yachats.


A small lighthouse on a wide river.

Warrior Rock Lighthouse on Sauvie Island. See it on the Warrior Point Hike (Photo by John Sparks)

Oregon’s first lighthouse was built next to the Umpqua River in 1857, but the shifting river bank undermined the structure and a new light was constructed on a bluff in 1894. The Cape Blanco Lighthouse, completed in 1870, is the oldest continually operating light on the Oregon Coast and sits at the westernmost point of Oregon’s mainland.

Two of the state’s coastal lighthouses are on islands, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and Cape Arago Lighthouse on Chief’s Island. Neither of these lighthouses, nor Cape Meares Lighthouse, function any longer. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse–“Terrible Tilly”–served as a columbarium for a short time, and Chief’s Island with the Cape Arago Lighthouse has been turned over to the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw. All other lighthouses have been automated.

A small lighthouse on a rock in the ocean.

“Terrible Tilly” viewed from Tillamook Head. See it on the Clatsop Loop Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

You can visit several of the lighthouses, and tours of some are given in the summer months. You can also incorporate some of the lighthouses into a hike, while others can be viewed from nearby trails.

A squat black-and-white lighthouse with an adjoining building and ocean in background.

The 1889 Cape Meares Lighthouse, no longer functioning now. Enjoy the Cape Meares Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A flower-covered ocean headland with a lighthouse in the distance.

A view across Yaquina Head to the lighthouse. Explore the Yaquina Head Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A white house topped by a red lighthouse tower on its roof.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Newport. Visit it on the Newport Bayfront Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A view through a forest to a private house with a small light tower.

The private Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse from Amanda’s Trail. Try the Amanda’s Trail Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A brightly lit lens under the red roof of a lighthouse with the ocean behind.

The first-order Fresnel lens of Heceta Head Lighthouse. Make it your destination on the Hobbit Beach to Heceta Head Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A tall white lighthouse tower.

The 1894 incarnation of Umpqua River Lighthouse. Make a diversion from the Lake Marie Loop Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A red-roofed white lighthouse attached to a square red-roofed white building on a rocky island.

Cape Arago Lighthouse on Chief’s Island viewed from Sunset Bay State Park. Get views from the Shore Acres Loop Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A white lighthouse with a red roof and red-painted foundation.

Coquille River Lighthouse. Reach it on the Bullards Beach Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A white lighthouse with a red roof.

Oregon’s oldest operating lighthouse at Cape Blanco. Stop by on the Cape Blanco Loop Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

A lighthouse built into a residence with many windows and a large tree behind it.

The privately owned Pelican Bay Light viewed from Brookings Harbor. See it across the bay on the Chetco Point Hike. (Photo by John Sparks)

John Sparks: john.sparks@trailkeepersoforegon.org

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