Cape Blanco, meaning “white cape” in Spanish, was first sighted and named by a Spanish explorer in 1603. The meaning behind the name is somewhat of a mystery, being that the cliffs are more reddish in color, but one theory claims that the fossilized shells found in the cliff face were responsible for the naming. Cape Blanco is the western-most point in Oregon and its cliff rise 200 feet above the pounding sea bellow. It is also probably one of the windiest, where gust as high as 184 mph have been recorded.
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest remaining lighthouse in Oregon. The 59-foot tall structure was built in 1870 and served as a beacon for sailors that could be seen up to 22 miles away. Sometimes, depending on the weather, time of day, and time of year, you can drive right up to the lighthouse. There is very little parking here though, so if you want the chance to explore a little, the better bet is to park at the parking area at the gate, 0.4 miles down the road. You will be able to take in the surroundings more completely walking this last bit, with exceptional views both to the north and south. Plus, who wants to drive when you can walk.
Begin the hike from the trailhead located right at the gate for the lighthouse road. Getting lost isn’t too much of a worry on this one, as you have to simply follow the road. The road travels through a small dip as you pass through the saddle between the mainland and the cape. Here, time and endless waves continue to erode away this connection and someday in the future, Cape Blanco will likely just become another sea stack.
Following the dip, the road begins to climb up towards the lighthouse. Be sure to take in the views, with Sixes Beach and all its rocks to your right and the southern beach and Needle Rock to your left. Even out to sea you will be able to spot countless other rocks jetting from the water’s surface.
Soon you will pop out on top of Cape Blanco, with the beautiful lighthouse right in front of you and some old radio-communications equipment utilized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to your left. The BLM maintains the historic lighthouse and tours are available between April and October.
To reach Cape Blanco, head north of Port Orford for 4 miles or south of Bandon for 22 miles on Highway 101. Watch for the signs directing you to the west towards Cape Blanco State Park. Follow the road for 5 miles until you reach the trailhead, just past the campground. There will be a dirt parking area on both sides of the road, along with an informational kiosk on the right, right before you pass through the gate heading up to the lighthouse.
Passes: No passes are required. Lighthouse tours are perfomred between April and October and cost $2/adult, $1/child, or $5/family.
Dogs: Dogs are allowd but must be on leash.
Open Season: The state park is open and accessible year round. Don't be surprised to find high winds or dense fog, especially in the more wintery months.