In 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition crossed Tillamook Head to buy the blubber of a stranded whale from Native Americans at Cannon Beach. At the viewpoint, Captain William Clark famously marveled, “I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed.”
Today, you can hike the same trail as Clark — the Tillamook Head Trail —and look in awe at the same view. You’ll also get to see the infamous Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, perched on an inhospitable rock often swept over by crashing waves. Nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” the lighthouse had a reputation for ill-tempered lighthouse keepers whose cramped quarters and isolation sometimes got the better of them.
THE QUEST BEGINS
Your quest to see Tillamook Rock begins on the south side of Seaside at the end of Sunset Boulevard. Here you’ll find a free parking lot and the Tillamook Head trailhead in Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Preserve. If you were to look at a trail map, you might assume that you’d be treated to ocean views along the entire trail. Instead you’ll find that much of the trail runs under towering Sitka spruce, Western hemlock and Western red cedar with a bed of deer ferns, skunk cabbage and goose-neck moss. To see Terribly Tilly, you’ll need to do a little work.
The most strenuous part of the climb is at the very beginning with a series of switchbacks that yield an elevation gain of 900 feet. You’ll reach the highest point after about 1.7 miles. The trail levels out and then meanders along the 1,130-foot-tall headland. Just after the 4-mile mark, you’ll pass three, open-sided camping shelters in addition to a six-room, concrete bunker that housed radar equipment during World War II. A short spur trail leads to the cliffside viewpoint where you’ll spot Tilly a little over a mile offshore, lonely and forgotten. The view, however, will be one to remember.
THE JOURNEY BACK
Retrace your steps to the parking lot, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can continue 1.6 miles to Indian Beach picnic area or beyond that, another 1.5 miles to Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach.
If you make the full trek to Cannon Beach, you can call one of two cab companies in Seaside for a lift back. At the time of writing, Aalpha Shuttle (503-440-7777) charges $22 for a ride from Ecola Point and $27 from Indian Beach; Royal (503-325-5818) does not have a flat rate from either of those two locations, but you can expect to pay between $30-$40.
Click here for more great hikes in and around Seaside.
Photo by Greg Vaughn