Winter storms on the Oregon Coast are the stuff of legends. Watching giant waves race toward the shore, then violently crash and spray against the rock formations is a not-to-be forgotten experience. The Yachats area offers some of the most spectacular vantages for watching this exhilarating display of nature.
Be sure to watch from a safe distance, and never turn your back on the ocean. Sneaker waves strike quickly, without warning and drag people into the unforgiving ocean.
Tips for planning your storm watching adventure:
Dress for the weather. Make yourself comfortable with layers and top them with a waterproof outer-layer. Consider taking a hat and remember to grab sturdy (waterproof if possible) boots or shoes if you plan to walk on a trail.
Pick your spot about an hour before high tide; check the tide tables to plan your day.
Choose a viewpoint far enough away from the waves to be safe. Stay off jetties and driftwood logs.
Look for a location where the waves can come to shore unhindered, and a rock formation against which they can crash and spray.
Bring your weather-sealed binoculars and camera!
The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area offers a number of not-to-be-missed views of the tempestuous ocean. Park at the northern edge of Cape Perpetua and walk down to the Devil’s Churn. When a storm is raging, the force of the huge waves releases billows of sea foam that land on the rocks and up the sides of this small canyon. The water sloshing in the channel can have a color of cream, and the metaphor of a butter churn is easy to understand. Aptly named Devil’s Churn, nothing will survive being tossed about in that space.
At the southern edge of the Cape Perpetua area, you don’t even have to leave your car if you park strategically to see Cook’s Chasm. However, you will want to get out and see if you can get a view of the Spouting Horn, and Thor’s Well.
For a grand view of the ocean, drive to the top of the overlook. Glance up from the Cook’s Chasm parking area to see if the visibility is clear enough that you’ll have a view from up top, or else you just might drive straight up into the cloud and not be able to see much.
Depending on the state of the storm, Heceta Head also offers several viewpoints. For a vista from the car, drive to the pull-out area just north of the Sea Lions Cave, at approximately mile marker 179. This view is a great place to see the Heceta Head Lighthouse and can offer a stunning view of the crashing waves. For an up-close view from the car, drive to the oceanfront Heceta Head Lighthouse parking area and angle your car so that you can watch the waves.
Ready to get out for a walk? Head on up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Remember to turn around occasionally to watch the waves. At multiple points along the trail are prime views. For a rare treat, go during a king tide (perigee tide), and see the waves lapping up nearly to the parking lot. From the lighthouse, you can see waves spraying against the haystack rock, as well as down to Devil’s Elbow.
Walk along the Historic 804 Trail, right here, in Yachats for an exhilarating experience. Atop the bluffs, next to the ocean’s edge, are several vantage points where you can be a safe distance from the water yet still feel the ocean’s spray. At times, you can feel in your feet the ferocious ocean exploding onto the rocks.
Other Yachats Locations
Two roadside stops in Yachats offer a great vantage point from your vehicle, as well as an opportunity to get out if you wish. Strategically angle your car on Ocean Road, just south of the river. There is even a spouting blow hole here when the conditions are right.
Yachats State Park, immediately west of the shopping district of Yachats, is another great spot to watch the spray — again, a great place to park your car and watch. Or, if you are up for a walk, this area connects into the 804 Trail to the north.
Overleaf Lodge and Fireside Motel
From a balcony or window in the Overleaf Lodge and Fireside Motel you can watch a winter storm while enjoying your favorite beverage. Staying here is a great way to perfectly time your outdoor pilgrimage to see the exploding waves, then retreat to dry off, warm up and enjoy the fantastic view.