Head Lighthouse is seen across Devil's Elbow Cove.
Photo by William Sullivan
to Heceta Head Lighthouse
most photographed lighthouse stands at the tip of a scenic, forested
the Hike: Two easy trails climb through the coastal woods to
this spectacular lighthouse and the allegedly haunted lighthouse
keepers' house nearby.
Two easy trails lead to the lighthouse, a 0.5-mile path from the
state park and a 1.3-mile Oregon Coast Trail segment from the north.
Open all year, but the Oregon Coast Trail section is slippery in
There: Drive Highway 101 north of Florence 12 miles or south
of Yachats 15 miles. Just north of a tunnel, turn downhill into
the Heceta Head Lighthouse Viewpoint (alias Devils Elbow State Park).
Expect a $3 parking fee.
you would rather hike the longer, more scenic trail to the lighthouse,
drive one mile farther north on Highway 101 to a paved pullout on
the right signed "Overnight Camping Prohibited."
A $3-per-car fee is charged at the state park, but the parking pullout
on Highway 101 (the trailhead for the longer trail) is free.
Tips: The short, half-mile trail to the lighthouse starts at
the far end of the Heceta Head Lighthouse Viewpoint picnic area's
parking lot and climbs 0.3 mile through salal meadows and spruce
groves to an old road. To the right is the Heceta Light Station,
a white clapboard, 1893 duplex that once housed the two assistant
light keepers. Still allegedly haunted by a young woman named Rue,
the building is now a fabulously scenic bed and breakfast inn with
six rooms that run $135-220 (for information call 541-547-3696).
the Heceta Light Station, walk left along the old road 0.2 mile
to the lighthouse itself. When it's open (noon to 5 pm Monday through
Thursday and 11 am to 6 pm Friday through Sunday), volunteers lead
visitors up the tower's 58 steps to see the lens rotating on its
ball bearing track.
if you don't climb the tower, bring binoculars to watch the antics
of the 7,000 long-necked, black Brandt's cormorants that roost April
through August on the rocks below the railed yard. Tufted puffins,
now rare here, were once so numerous that they gave the small offshore
island its name: Parrot Rock.
longer and quieter 1.3-mile hiking route to the lighthouse begins
at a poorly marked (but free) parking pullout on the east side of
Highway 101. From the pullout, walk 100 feet north and cross the
highway to find a Hobbit Trail post. When the path forks after 50
feet, keep left. This trail climbs through an ancient, wind-swept
Sitka spruce forest with salal, rhododendrons, and views up the
coast as far as Cape Perpetua. Wear boots, because the tread is
slick and slippery in spots. After 1.3 miles the path switchbacks
down to the lighthouse.
The Devils Elbow is the name of the scenic cove beside Heceta Head.
The cove won its name because it confounded early mariners with devilish
currents. The picnic area here, long known as Devils Elbow State Park,
was recently renamed Heceta Head Lighthouse Viewpoint Wayside because
state bureaucrats wanted to avoid satanic references in state park
The Heceta Head Light Station is now a bed & breakfast.
Photos by William Sullivan
many people prefer the old name. Heceta Head (pronounced huh-SEE-tuh)
honors Bruno de Heceta, the Portuguese captain of a Spanish ship,
who first sighted the cape in 1775. The beacon here first shone
in 1894, using a 2-ton array of prism lenses that is still in service.
This was the last of Oregon's dozen coastal lighthouses to be built.
Bricks for the tower were shipped from San Francisco to Florence,
carted down the beach, and hauled over the hills on wagons. The
lens, with 640 delicate, hand-ground prisms, was off-loaded onto
the cape by surf boat.
Heceta Head and nearby Cape Perpetua are both remnants of oceanfloor
lava flows. Long after the volcanic action had ended, this entire
section of seafloor was buckled up by the advancing North American