Yaquina Head juts out from the Oregon coast 1 mile into the Pacific Ocean on a base of 14 million year old basalt lava flows. At the end of the head sits the Yaquina Lighthouse, a 93 foot tall tower (Oregon’s tallest lighthouse) which was constructed at the end of the headlands in 1872. Other amazing features can also on Yaquina Head, which is managed as an Outstanding Natural Area by the BLM. There are a number of short trails to explore here, but they can all be joined together to make for an exciting day of exploration.
There are a number of different places you can begin your hike, but one of the easiest is at the Quarry Cove parking area, the first parking area you come to. You will have much better luck finding a parking space here than up at the much more popular lighthouse. So hop out of your car and head first down the gated off road towards Quarry Cove.
Quarry Cove was once the location of, if you can imagine it, a quarry. Huge amounts of basalt were mined here until 1980 when the area was designated as an Outstanding Natural Area. During high tide, harbor seals will frequent the cove to rest on the rocks. Once you’ve had your fill, head back up the way you came to the parking lot and then head to the stairs on the fair side and start marching up.
The stairs will quickly take you up above the cliffs of Quarry Cove. You will start in a tunnel of trees but will quickly emerge into a windswept grassy, and, during the late spring and early summer, flower filled meadow. It is a little more than a 1/3 of a mile until you reach a tunnel that heads under the road towards the interpretive center. A quick side trip there can fill your eager mind with exhibits on seabirds, marine life, and human history on the headland.
Past the interpretive center, the trail hugs the road way and travels a quarter of a mile before reaching the lighthouse parking area. But before heading straight to the lighthouse, be sure to head down the 150 stairs to Cobble Beach. This beach is made up of large, round stones created by millions of years of waves against the basalt cliffs. The rocky islands, like Seal Rock, will often times have resting seals. There are also fantastic tide pools located here if you time your visit during low tide. The round cobble can be hard to walk on, so watch your step.
When your done playing with the sea cucumbers (don’t touch them you monster), head back up the stairs and make your visit to the lighthouse. There is a short trail that heads around the lighthouse, but be aware that dogs are not allowed here. You can take tours of the lighthouse between late spring and early falls, and you can also watch for migrating whales heading around Yaquina Head during early winter and spring.
Following the visit of the lighthouse, head around the afar end of the parking area to view some interesting rock formations within the water, wish as a small cave/arch. Head towards the restrooms and then head up the stairs to make your way up Salal Hill. It’s a little less than a 200 foot climb in about a third of a mile, but the views from the top are amazing. Enjoy the 360 degree views and the ability to look down on the lighthouse and the Pacific beyond.
On your way back, head back the way you came and follow the trail along the roadway as you make your way back to Quarry Cove. A little before reaching the parking area, if you still have some adventuring left in you, you can take the left fork in the trail and head across the road towards Communications Hill. It is about a half mile to the summit of the hill, which marks the high point of the head. The trail up the hill is a gravel road and it does offer some nice views to the south and some peak-a-boo views through the trees to the north, but they are not as dramatic as the views from Salal Hill. Hang gliders also like to use this area as a launching point.
To reach Yaquina Head, head north on Highway 101 from Newport for 1.5 miles or 10 miles south of Depot Bay before heading west at a stoplight onto Lighthouse Drive. There will be signs directing you to Yaquina Head. Head down the road for 0.4 miles, through the fee station and make a left into the Quarry Cove parking area.
Passes: A $7 entry fee is required.
Dogs: Allowed but must be on a leash at all times. Dogs are not allowed around the lighthouse or down on the beach at Quarry Cove if you want to do some exploring there.
Open Season: Open and accessible all year. Winter storms can be brutal though and expect windy conditions most of the time.