with the Lewis and Clark Expedition to Tillamook Head via
Ecola State Park and discover the explorers' farthest western
point of discovery.
Photo by William Sullivan
behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever
- Capt. William Clark
to Tillamook Head
the Hike: The
farthest point reached by the Lewis and Clark expedition was not at
the mouth of the Columbia River, but rather 20 miles south at Tillamook
Head, where they went hiking in search of whale blubber.
the footsteps of Lewis and Clark
a section of the Oregon Coast Trail in Ecola State Park follows the
explorers' route to the dramatic, thousand-foot cliff of Tillamook
Head, overlooking craggy islands. The route passes a viewpoint that
made even Captain Clark exclaim in wonder.
A moderate, 3.6-mile loop to the headland's tip gains 900 feet of
Open all year.
There: Drive west from Portland on Highway 26 to the Oregon Coast.
Turn left on Highway 101 for 3 miles, take the north exit for Cannon
Beach and follow Ecola State Park signs, keeping right for 2 miles
to the park's entrance booth. Turn right at the booth for 1.5 miles
to the Indian Beach picnic area parking lot.
A $3 day-use parking fee is collected at the park's entrance booth.
Hiking Tips: The wide, graveled trail starts on the right-hand
side of the Indian Beach parking turnaround. After 100 yards keep
left at a fork and climb, steeply at times, through old-growth spruce
and alder woods. After 1.6 miles you'll reach an X-shaped trail crossing
beside three open-sided shelters and a primitive camping area for
backpackers. The shelters and tent sites are available for free on
a first-come, first-served basis, but there is no drinking water nearby.
Turn left at the trail junction for 0.2 mile to find a 6-room concrete
bunker that housed a radar installation in World War II. Just beyond
is a cliff-edge viewpoint at the tip of Tillamook Head, breathtakingly
high above a rugged rock beach. A mile to sea is Tillamook Rock, a
bleak island with a lighthouse that operated from 1881 to 1957. Nicknamed
"Terrible Tilly," the light was repeatedly overswept by winter storms
that dashed water, rocks and fish into the lantern room 150 feet above
normal sea level. The island was finally bought by funeral entrepreneurs
who bring in urns of cremated remains by helicopter.
visiting the cape's tip, return 0.2 mile to the trail crossing. If
you'd like to see an even better viewpoint ("Clark's Point of View"),
you could detour to the left for half a mile. Otherwise, complete
the loop back to your car by going straight at the trail crossing.
This path is a well-graded, abandoned road that descends 1.6 miles
back to the Indian Beach parking lot.
Captain Clark, Sacajawea and a small group of men from the Lewis and
Clark expedition crossed this formidable headland in 1806 to buy the
blubber of a stranded whale from Indians at Cannon Beach. At a viewpoint
along the way Clark marveled, "I behold the grandest and most pleasing
prospect which my eyes ever surveyed."
Geology: Tillamook Head is a tilted remnant
of a massive, 15-million-year-old Columbia River basalt flow. Incredibly,
the lava welled up near Idaho, flooded down the Columbia Gorge, and
spread along the seashore to this point.