July 3, 2021 — It’s the season for trail hunting and celebrating the great outdoors, and the Heceta Head Lighthouse Trail offers multiple options for various activities this summer.
To access the lighthouse from Florence, people can head north on Highway 101, and, just after Cape Creek Bridge, turn left at the sign for Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. Follow the road down as it curves to the right to arrive at the parking lot.
There is a $5 day parking fee, or you can purchase an annual parking permit, honored at 25 various Oregon State Parks, for $30.
The park is open for day-use only from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with beach access and picnic tables, as well as restrooms, located next to the parking lot. Restrooms are currently open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both the park and the surrounding ocean are part of Oregon’s largest marine reserve, the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve.
Wildlife found at the beach include birds such as Brandt’s Cormorant, the Common Murre and the Pigeon Guillemot, as well as the harbor seal and California sea lion. The animals in the area take refuge on Parrot and Pinnacle Rocks, which can be seen just off the coast.
The area is closed to all remote-controlled aircraft, so while it is an opportune locale for hiking, fishing and birdwatching, this would not be an ideal place for flying drones.
Pets are allowed at the park and along the trail as long as they are on a leash, but they are not permitted inside buildings.
The Heceta Head Lighthouse trailhead begins at the parking lot and the distance to the lighthouse viewpoint is roughly half a mile. It is partially paved and the elevation gain to the lighthouse is only 131 feet, so it is a mild trail that can be traversed by all skill levels. People should keep in mind that it could be slightly muddy if it is rainy.
Lining the trail are various trees indigenous to the Siuslaw Forest and gorgeous wildflowers of all kinds, as well as blackberry bushes. There are also several benches along the way to stop and take in the scenery as you go.
About .4 miles up the trail just before the lighthouse is the Keeper’s Home, which operates as a bed and breakfast, and the Gift Shop. The Heceta Lighthouse B&B at the Keeper’s Home was built in 1893 and is one of the last remaining keeper’s homes on the Pacific Coast.
Visitors can choose from five available rooms, enjoy a wine and cheese social and a seven-course breakfast with their stay. The Gift shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit hecetalighthouse.com.
Just after the Keeper’s Home and Gift Shop is the historic lighthouse, which was constructed between 1892 and 1893 and first lit in 1894. The lighthouse and viewpoint were named for Bruno de Heceta, a Spanish navigator and explorer who surveyed the Oregon coast in 1775.
The 56-foot tower can be seen 21 miles from land and is rated as the strongest light on the Oregon coast. In the winter and spring months, whale watching at the lighthouse viewpoint is quite popular.
After reaching the lighthouse, there is a trail head for Heceta Head Trail that follows through to Hobbit Trail, Valley Trail, China Creek Trail and finally Washburne Campground and Beach. The entire trail is seven miles total and is a part of the Oregon Coast Trail, but the Heceta Head Trail itself is only 1.5 miles if you’re looking for a less strenuous hike.
At that point, the trail becomes much more steep and less paved, so it is less family friendly, but wonderful for hiking enthusiasts looking for a good workout.
In addition to activities that can be enjoyed individually, the Keepers of Heceta Head Lightstation (KHHL) has announced the arrival of a new “roving nature ranger” at the lighthouse. Dina Pavlis has volunteered on the Oregon Coast as an interpretive ranger for the past 18 years.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the outstanding KHHL team at Heceta Head Lightstation this season. There is so much to experience here, from the natural beauty to the fascinating history of the lightstation and keepers who lived there,” said Pavlis. “I look forward to sharing the natural history story of this important historical site.”
As of Memorial Day Weekend, Pavlis has been roving the trail between the beach and lighthouse every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., answering questions about geology, plants, marine mammals and birds.
Pavlis is in the process of developing several outdoor events for the lighthouse, working to ensure they will be safe for visitors this season.
“I’m working on things that will allow visitors to spread out while they learn about and experience the outstanding nature at this site,” she said.
Programs will be announced on the Keepers of Heceta Head Lightstation Facebook page as they are scheduled. For more information, visit facebook.com/keepersofhecetaheadlightstation, and for more information about visiting the park, visit stateparks.oregon.gov/ and search for “Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.” This is also where people can purchase parking permits and ATV permits.