Pacific City, OR
Cape Kiwanda is a landscape photographer’s candy store, with the ocean, hard hitting waves, sunsets, seas stacks, and unique sandstone/rock formations that provide at least 4 great shots all within 500yds. or so. For this Trail Notes, I will only provide information on one photographic location, as the other opportunities are far too dangerous for me to recommend.
Coupled the great photographic opportunities is the relaxing nature of the town of Pacific City, OR. It is a great place to visit even if you are not shooting. The only downside of this location from a photography standpoint - is an occasional marine layer (dense fog) that can move in and block out the sun.
Trail Difficulty (3 out of 5)
I would rate the range of difficulty of this trail as a 3-5 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). To get to the location of the shot, you have to hike about ½ mile from the parking lot to the beach and then up a steep sandy hill.
You then hike up another sandy incline and walk through some shrubs to get to the location of the shoot. Once you get to the location, you are close to a ledge with a 50 ft. drop-off. It is very important to be cautious when hiking around Cape Kiwanda.
The waves at Cape Kiwanda are wild and often unpredictable and at time can reach over 75ft. If you are not cautious and aware of the waves they can be dangerous and even deadly.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
73 Ft Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Cape Kiwanda parking lot.
Cape Kiwanda is located in Pacific City on the Oregon Coast about 55 miles west of Salem, Oregon. From Salem, drive 50 miles west on OR-22 (which turns into OR-130) until you reach US-101. Drive 1 mile north on US-101 until you reach Brooten Rd where you turn left. Continue on Brooten Rd until you get to Pacific City. Take a left over the bridge and turn right on Cape Kiwanda Drive and continue until you reach the The Pelican Pub and Brewery. Park in the parking lot and walk down to the beach.
Once on the beach, take a right to the sandy hill about 1/4 away. Follow the path from the beach up the sandy hill and you will be at Cape Kiwanda.
There are several optional shots at this locations.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
The best time to shoot is late afternoon/evening to sunset. An overcast day could also work.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
You can shoot this location year around. However, if you are looking for the soft red glow off of the Cape in the evening/sunset, the best time of year would be from March – September. In the winter months the sunset sun on the sandy wall is blocked. However, winter months can produce some extreme weather/waves, which can add drama to the shot.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The above shot was taken with a 24mm lens.
There are no permits required.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is north at 22°.
Special Nuances of Shot
You can shoot this location year around. However, if you are looking for the soft red glow off of the Cape in the evening/sunset, the best time of year would be from March – September. In the winter months the sunset sun is blocked. However, winter months can produce some extreme weather/waves, which can add drama to the shot.
Special Equipment Needed
You will need a tripod, a polarizer, and a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce your shutter speed to ½ second or longer to create the silky water flow. You may also want to use a tilt/shift lens to compensate for the slight keystone effect on the dunes and horizon while pointing down toward the ocean.
It gets windy and cold at this location, especially at sunset, so make sure you bring the appropriate gear. Also, sometime the sea breeze will mist your lens, so you may want to bring a towel or microfiber to dry you lens.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Cape Kiwanda can be moderately to very busy at times, with several hikers and other photographers on the cape. I would suggest scouting out the area prior to late afternoon.
The weather on the Oregon coast is mild in the spring, summer, and fall, and it rains about 75 inches a year. Winter can be cold, wet, and produce strong storms/waves.
The Oregon coastline can often be totally “socked in” from the marine layer (dense fog). Be sure to bring rain gear.
I use Verizon, and the cell service available, but not strong.
Cape Kiwanda is located in Pacific City, OR. The closest other larger cities/towns are Portland (95 miles east), Lincoln City, OR (24 miles south), and Eugene (125 miles east and then south). Each of these larger towns has an abundance of lodging.
Pacific City is a wonderful, relaxing coastal getaway with a handful of RV/campsites, lodging, and restaurants. For camping, I stay at the Cape Kiwanda RV Park, which is reasonably priced and has a shower and laundry. It is right across the street from Cape Kiwanda and is an easy walk to the Stimulus Espresso Café for your morning coffee.
Both the Cottages at Cape Kiwanda and the Inn at Cape Kiwanda are nice spots located right across from the beach.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Inn at Cape Kiwanda
33105 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR
Cottages at Cape Kiwanda
33000 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR
Pacific City Inn
33000 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Pacific City, OR
When I am at Cape Kiwanda (Pacific City), I always enjoy a nice meal and cold brew at the Pelican Pub & Brewery. This is an enjoyable restaurant with award-winning craft brew. It is located directly on the beach and is an easy walk to Cape Kiwanda. I have also enjoyed a nice lunch at the Grateful Bread Bakery & Restaurant.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
Pelican Pub & Brewery
33180 Cape Kiwanda Dr, Oregon, Pacific City, OR
Grateful Bread Bakery & Restaurant
34805 Brooten Rd, Pacific City, OR
The only laundry mat in Pacific City that I know of is in the Cape Kiwanda RV Park.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
Portland International airport (PDX) – is a full international airport with services to most of the major airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops
If you were looking for a GREAT photography guide for Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington areas) - I can highly recommend Mark Metternich. I have taken workshops with Mark in the past and he has been hosting workshops in the Pacific Northwest for many years.
Mark knows all the VERY best places to take you and just the right time to be there - to help you get the shot. He is a great photographer, an expert at photoshop, an excellent guide/instructor and a super nice guy.
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.