Wildlife refuges and preserves offer a tremendous opportunity to step back in time and see a place as it may have appeared hundreds of years earlier. Cape Meares offers those opportunities in abundance, and they are just a short hike from the entrance at the parking area.
Some 500 years before Captain Cook first saw the Oregon Coast and gave an English name to Cape Foulweather, a humble Sitka spruce began to grow in the shade of the surrounding foliage. This spruce was around 600 years old when Oregon became a state on Valentine’s Day in 1859. Today, Big Spruce is Oregon's largest Sitka spruce, and at 9,030 cubic feet it's the 10th largest spruce in the world when measured by volume. To see it, take the short hike to the left as the trail forks just outside the parking area.
The pleasures of the refuge don't stop there. Continue down the trail as it winds through more of the coastal old-growth, and keep your eyes and ears alert for wildlife. Listen for deer and elk in the woods, and as you walk along the beach look for murres and the occasional puffin. High tide definitely limits your options as you near the beach, so plan around it if you want to spend any time on the shore.
Once you catch your breath after the climb back to your car, continue down the road to the Cape Meares State Park, where there are excellent opportunities to view more of the wildlife from the headlands. If you are visiting in the spring, watch for local Peregrine Falcons that maintain an eyrie on the seaside cliffs.