A walk in the park: Yaquina Head Natural Area

Yaquina Head
Yaquina Head

Part of an occasional series exploring North America’s national, provincial and state parks.

YAQUINA HEAD, Ore. – We were road drunk, so when Trevor said he thought the sign said “Vagina Head,” I nearly wet myself giggling.

Melani’s had this national conservation area staked out for five years, so it’s a shame we couldn’t spend time walking its trails, but what we did see was exquisite.

Yaquina Head

Cobble Beach is at the base of dark cliffs where Brandt’s comorants nest and crabs, giant starfish, mussels and bright green anenome cling to black rocks in the sea. The beach is made up of oval basalt rocks the size of hands and feet that knock together as waves whip through and around the tide pools. White, smooth driftwood is scattered everywhere.

Yaquina Head’s star attraction is the 1873, 93-foot-tall lighthouse. I think of lighthouses as an east-coast thing. We’ve visted them in Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Maine and Quebec, so it seemed strange to me to find this here on the alien west coast. My eastern expectations would steer me wrong in the days to come, as well.

Yaquina Head

This lighthouse is as beautiful as any on the other coast, perched as it is on the edge of a cliff shrouded in a damp, icy mist that muffles the sound of the Pacific and the 50,000 common murres, which look a little like penguins, on Colony Rock below.

three wheels

We give Yaquina Head Natural Area three stroller wheels (out of a possible five). It is breathtaking, and people more interested than us in sea life or birding could spend days there and keep coming back for more. But essentially it’s just a funky beach and a gorgeous lighthouse surrounded by half-mile trails.

Entrance is $7 per vehicle (less for motorcycles), or buy the $80 annual pass that gets you access to all American national parks. The park closes half an hour after sunset.

Yaquina Head


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