The rocky, volcanic features of the Oregon coast make for some fantastic photographic opportunities, from the seastacks along Cannon Beach to the wildflower grasslands at Cascade Head. Spitting salt water below Cape Perpetua, Thor’s Well is the setting for some of Oregon’s most recognizable photographs, and the area abounds with outdoor opportunities to enjoy the scenic Oregon coast. Between the explosive power of the ocean, the tide pool wildlife, forest hikes, and ocean vistas, there’s plenty to keep you busy before golden hour.
Here are three reasons to visit Thor’s Well...
Thor’s Well at high tide makes for a great photograph, but there are a couple of things you need to know before you go. Be sure to check the tide charts to align high tide with sunrise or sunset, depending on which you want to shoot. There is a window of about and hour before and after high tide; at lower tides, Thor’s Well is essentially just a hole in the ground. There are many perspectives to shoot, but photographers tend to agree that the best photo occurs when a jet of water drains back into Thor’s Well, creating a waterfall effect with longer exposure times. Think of one- to two-second exposures. Photographers shooting during peak sunlight hours will need a neutral density filter.
Logistically, getting to Thor’s Well is tough to find. Thor’s Well is a popular place to shoot photos, so park on the north side of the bridge and keep an eye out for those who arrived before you if your goal is to shoot photos right away. Otherwise, navigate the tide pools while you search for it. The terrain here is treacherous, so step carefully and be sure to pack all of your equipment away while making the trek. It is also wise to watch the wave action from a distance to gauge when and where the most dangerous waves strike.
Thor’s Well is on the doorstep to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which offers miles of trails through the coast forest, a campground, a giant Sitka spruce, and a viewpoint with views stretching for miles north and south. The trail network here offers short and long hiking options to break up the monotony of a long wait for proper light conditions. The largest and oldest Sitka spruce grows here, more than 600 years old and boasting a circumference of 40 feet. It is easy to access from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center. Also easy to access, the West Shelter provides an intriguing photo opportunity. Perched above the Pacific, the shelter was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and served as a watch tower during World War II. However, the best views can be found at the viewpoint at the top of the Cummins Creek Loop Trail, several miles in. With views stretching 30 miles in every direction, it’s one of the best vantages on the Oregon coast. It may be possible, during the spring and fall migrations, to see whales in the Pacific.
Thor’s Well isn’t the only ocean display in the area. The rocks below Cape Perpetua are pocked with features that make for an entertaining show when the seas are high. Cape Cove Beach is a secluded getaway thanks to a steep access trail, and its rocky outcroppings channel the ocean water in unique ways. Perhaps more entertaining than Thor’s Well itself is the Spouting Horn, which spouts jets of water 30 feet into the air with each incoming wave. With a wary eye, feel free to explore the area and find unexplored spouts to call your own!