Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area
The trail on Cape Perpetua travels through a grassy bald area. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Cape Perpetua viewed from the south. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Evergreen violet (Viola sempervirens) is found in moist forested habitats. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Skunk cabbage (Lysichitum americanum) is one of the earliest plants to bloom at Cape Perpetua. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
The Giant Spruce Trail passes through an old growth temperate rainforest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas fir, and western red cedar. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Western trillium (Trillium ovatum). Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus). Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.
Cape Perpetua Special Interest Area
Forest: Siuslaw National Forest
District: Central Coast Ranger District
Description: Located on the Pacific Coast of Oregon, the Special Interest Area is centered on the rugged Cape Perpetua headland, a bluff of volcanic basalt rising 800 feet above the Ocean. The 2,700-acre area includes a Visitor Center, 26 miles of maintained trails with access to the adjacent Cummins Creek Wilderness Area, and an Auto Tour road to the top of the headland where, on a clear day, you can see 40 miles out to sea. Habitats in the Special Interest Area include:
- An open, grassy bald on the south flank of the headland;
- Verdant old growth temperate rainforest of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), including one giant 15 feet across;
- Wind-sculpted strand communities dominated by spruce; and,
- Shore pine (Pinus contorta var. contorta), shrubs, grass, and forbs immediately adjacent to the beach.
Viewing Information: Wildflowers can be viewed from March through October. The season begins in the spruce-hemlock forest with evergreen violet (Viola sempervirens), stream violet (V. glabella), seaside bittercress (Cardamine angulata), western trillium (Trillium ovatum), coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus), skunk cabbage (Lysichitum americanum), and salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) appearing. This is followed by the grassy bald with bigleaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), Columbia larkspur (Delphinium trolliifolium), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), tufted saxifrage (Saxifraga caespitosa var. subgemmifera) and field chickweed (Cerastrium arvense). Along the beaches flowering red current (Ribes sanguineum), silk-tassel (Garrya elliptica), Hooker willow (Salix hookeriana) and the ubiquitous salal (Gaultheria shallon) are early bloomers. As the season progresses into late spring and summer, fingecup (Tellima grandiflora), youth-on-age (Tolmiea menziesii), Scouler’s corydalis (Corydalis scouleriana), red columbine (Aquilegia formosa) and bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) are common along streamsides in the forest with Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) in bloom on the slopes. Ferns are a dominant feature in this habitat where sword-fern (Polystichum munitum), deer-fern (Blechnum spicant), lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina), wood-fern (Dryopteris austriaca), and licorice-fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) are easily found. Late spring in the grassy bald finds colonies broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), lanceleaved stonecrop (S. lanceolatum), and gold-back fern (Pityrogramma triangularis) growing on basalt boulder outcrops. Pacific paintbrush (Castilleja littoralis) can be seen among the Roemer’s fescue grass (Festuca roemeri) that dominates the bald. Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), with its umbel of white flowers a foot or more across, is common along the beach as is Henderson’s angelica (Angelica hendersonii). Look for the smaller seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), early blue violet (Viola adunca) and springbank clover (Trifolium wormskjoldii) in grassy areas where the shrubs are not dominant. The last wildflower show of the season is provided by the chaparral broom (Baccharis pilularis) growing along the edge of the bald. From August through October and into November, it produces hundreds of small white flowers until the winter rains arrive once again.
Safety First: Be prepared for sudden changes in weather. Rain and high winds can move ashore quickly, particularly during the spring months, so it is best to carry raingear if hiking any distance, even if it is sunny when you begin your hike. During summer, fog frequently develops in the afternoon as warm air over the land meets cooler temperatures over water. When visibility is limited reduce driving speed and be extra alert. Although summer temperatures are usually a comfortable 60 to 70 degrees, in the rare event that temperatures rise over 80 degrees, bring plenty of sunscreen and water. There are no poisonous snakes and no poisonous plants (by dermal contact) at Cape Perpetua.
Directions: From the town of Yachats, proceed south on US Highway 101 for 1.5 miles. To reach the grassy bald and Cape Perpetua scenic overlook, turn left at the sign marked “Cape Perpetua Campground” and bear left. The road continues for approximately 2 miles and ends at a trailhead and the overlook. For the Visitor Center, continue south on Highway 101 and turn left at the “Visitor Center” sign. Beach areas and tide pools can be accessed from trailheads along Highway 101 immediately west of the Visitor Center road.
Ownership and Management: US Forest Service, Siuslaw National Forest, Central Coast Ranger District.
Closest Town: Yachats, Oregon.
For More Information: A recreation pass, required to park at a number of developed trailheads and parking areas, is available for $5.00 at the Visitor Center.