Cape Lookout State Park is a fully loaded day use and overnight park on the Oregon Coast, just southwest of Tillamook. My occasion for visiting was an annual family reunion camping trip over Memorial Day Weekend. Accordingly, the park was packed but fared well under the deluge of humanity. I consistantly enjoy my visits to Cape Lookout.
What you expect from a coastal park is pretty much what Cape Lookout delivers. Lots of beach and a few hiking trails were the traditional activities offered. The trails were footpaths only, with an easy, moderate, and tough trail. They had a short, but informative loop close to the campground. I'd highly recommend this one for those of you with kiddos or anyone who's interested to see all the fascinating things trees can do over time. The only other trail in the immediate park goes from the day use area to the trailhead to a viewpoint. The stretch from the day use area to the trailhead is pretty grueling, so if you're not up for a workout, just drive to the trailhead. The last half is manageable and the viewpoint is worth every step.
The beach is an interesting story. On the surface, it's what you expect from an Oregon beach - typically chilly, windy, and sandy. However, the history (and future) of the park is much more interesting. Due to a combination of natural erosion and human activity, there is much more beach around low tide. At points during high tide, a great deal of the beach disappears entirely, so definitely check the tide charts before departing on your sandy excursion. Cape Lookout offers a number of activities, though few in great variety. Overall, I give the activities a 3.5.
This is where the park definitely shines. If you like to spend time hanging around your campsite, this is a place for you. Almost all of the traditional/hook-up sites have lots of privacy provided by tall native plants such as salal. Tables and firepits were in each, with water and restrooms close. In a few sites, it seemed as though large tents were a bit of a squeeze, but almost all sites were very spacious. All the roads were paved and well maintained, though I wouldn't recommend rollerblades due to gravel.
Group Site B's "Bedroom"
The hike-in/bike-in camps definitely felt like they were in a coastal forest, though there wasn't all the tall shrubbery separating each site. Some were close together, but they all had tables, firepits, and a place to put a small tent. Outhouses and water were close by. It's an easy walk from the day use area and all features of the park are accessible. The site quality is a resounding 5.
I never had any direct interaction with the hosts, though I did see them cruising around frequently in their golf cart. Park rangers were both accessible and friendly. Everything was in good working order. There was some litter in public places, but I would not categorize it as a large problem. Overall, maintenance scores at a 4.5.
Cape Lookout State Park is moderately priced compared to other state campgrounds. You're likely to love your site and enjoy the activities it has to offer, particularly on your first trip out. If you like to see something new each time you camp, this park may not bear many repeat trips. Considering the park offers a little something for everyone, the value is a 4.5.
Picnic tables, flush toilets, showers, pit toilets, drinkable water, and fire pits are available in various locations throughout the park. Rental cabins and yurts are also available. Garbage is only available across from the check-in booth as a compactor. I didn't notice any recycling facilities. I'm wondering if Oregon State Parks are simply going to a single, centrally located trash facility to avoid the overflowing dumpster problem. I'll report back if I hear anything definite. The park features a day use area with convenient access to trails, restrooms, picnic tables, and a covered shelter if it's not reserved. There's also a meeting hall with a stove, heat, and lights available to rent. Sufficient parking was available at the day use area. This lot also acts as the overnight overflow lot. Firewood was available from the hosts.
As I went as part of a group, I didn't have a hand in the payment, but I will post more details here within a week or so on payment options. Cell reception was clearly quite good, as some of the campers in my party communicated through text messaging. I noticed a few bugs and a few places where standing water was present in the park. Conditions are ripe for bad late season bugs, but the ocean breezes may be discouraging.
Since it's beginning, geology has had a huge effect on Cape Lookout. The campground has changed and matured around the ocean. Especially after the hard storms of last winter, their attempts to combat erosion with a Dune Restoration Project are failing. The campground shifts every 5-10 years. In fact, the park rangers think that as early as next season, the entire A Loop may washed away.
How hard is it to find?
Head to Tillamook and follow the signs. As long as you trust them, it's quite easy to find. There are a lot of turns and, at one point, it looks like you're going through someone's neighborhood, but the signs to Cape Lookout State Park really are accurate and visible. Keep the faith!
Will you go back?
Considering it's become a Memorial Day tradition, yes! Beyond that, though, I will return. Camping along the coast is always a good choice on those miserably hot weekends.
Cape Lookout really is a gem. Check out this park before it's gone. Considering an always uncertain monetary future, it's possible that the ocean may consume this park within the next 15-20 years. It's also possible they'll continue developing loops backward. While the campsites are perhaps not as primitive as I prefer, it is a very enjoyable experience worth a 4.4. This is the perfect place for your reluctant camper - tents, RVs, yurts, and cabins are all viable option with the beach right there to tempt them. Enjoy this site, and remember, the delicious Tillamook Cheese Factory is on your way out, so don't forget to stop for some ice cream!