If Cape Blanco State Park were located on the northern coast of Oregon, the parking lot would be jam-packed every day.
With easy access, hiking trails, sweeping dramatic views to the north and south, 19th-century lighthouse, and access to Oregon’s beautiful beaches, Cape Blanco is an often missed jewel.
Due to it’s remote location from major city centers in Oregon (close to 5 hours from Portland), it offers a respite for folks looking to spend time enjoying the beach without the crowds.
All the better that you can find some really cool rocks and other materials while you visit.
Rockhounding Cape Blanco State Park (A Guide)
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
What You Can Expect When Rockhounding Cape Blanco State Park
Like many of the Oregon coast rockhounding sites, Cape Blanco has a long and wide beach, with various gravel bars that peak up through the sand when the ocean sweeps it away.
The amount and type of material you can and will find on the beach depends on what the ocean has been up to lately.
As you drive into the park area off of 101, you’ll notice that the road doesn’t really go down much at all toward the beach.
Instead, if you go straight toward the lighthouse (and you don’t turn into the campground), that the road takes you up.
The point where the lighthouse and parking is located is close to 250 feet above the level of the ocean.
From the parking lot, if you want to go to the beach on the south side, you’ll have to follow a somewhat steep trail down that 250 feet of elevation to the beach.
The trail is rocky and skinny, and looks more like a trail that people have worn over time due to use and less of an established park trail.
While it is not long, it is not a trek we would recommend with a stroller or for something who is in poor physical health.
There’s also a trail to the north beach outside the gate to the lighthouse.
Once you get to the bottom where the beach is, depending on the tide, you’ll have either a narrow or wide stretch of beach. At high tide, the surf can even cover the entire beach!
Best Time To Rockhound Cape Blanco beaches
In general, the best rockhounding on the Oregon coast is done in the late fall-early spring, as the tide is going out, at low tide, and after rough weather/storms.
As the tide goes out for the first time in the day, you’ll have first pick over everything that the ocean uncovered while it was in and churning over the sand before everyone else manages to get down to the beach to hang out.
As you walk, look for gravel bars or places where other material has accumulated. If you see spots that look like a small gravel bar, take your shovel to the area and see if digging down a 6-12 inches exposes any more rocks hiding right beneath the surface.
Look to the lines in the sand that appear to mark the highest tide. This can be a great place to find cool stuff that the ocean pushed out and forgot to pull back with it.
Check also near the foot of the cliffs for agates and other cool stones that were loosened from the rocky walls.
If There Isn’t Much Gravel At Cape Blanco
If you are camped at Cape Blanco and just aren’t finding much exposed at Cape Blanco, you are in luck. You don’t have far to drive north or south if you want to try out some better beaches.
As you drive south from Cape Blanco towards Gold Beach, try stopping at every opportunity to hit the beach, as you’ll often find some exposed gravel bar that hasn’t been picked over by other tourists.
We really like the beaches around Bandon as well (north from Cape Blanco). You’ll get some really dramatic views, and also have a chance to find some really sweet beach gravel bars to hunt through.
What You Can Expect to Find While Rockhounding Cape Blanco
At Cape Blanco, you’ll be able to find agates and jasper of various color, fossils, petrified wood, shells, and occasionally, sea glass.
Collection Limits at Cape Blanco
Collection limits are a one-gallon container per person per day, up to three gallons per calendar year.
Note: it is not legal to collect anything that looks like it is a native american artifact (such as arrowheads).
Here’s the link to the Oregon laws specific to collecting on Oregon’s beaches.
See Also, Is It Illegal To Take Home Sand From Oregon Beaches?
Equipment You’ll Need to Rockhound Cape Blanco
Rockhounding the Oregon Coast is not terribly difficult or technical.
In general, most of the work is walking and looking for what is on the surface.
We recommend against hacking at rock formations with tools; it isn’t allowed and can further destabilize areas that are already unstable.
As far as what to bring: Prepare for a day on the beach (bringing weather appropriate clothing, water, snacks) and then also bring a receptacle for your stones and finds.
Some people like to bring a panning screen or a sand dipper to make things easier. These can be nice to have but we don’t think that they are necessary.
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Curious about the equipment other rockhounders like to have in their kit? Our Gifts for Rockhounds Buying Guide has a great list of options.
How To Get To Cape Blanco State Park
The driving directions to Cape Blanco are extremely easy. Once you get on 101 (either from the north or south), drive until you hit the sign for Cape Blanco State Park.
The park is about 4-5 miles north of Port Orford, Oregon, and about 27-28 miles south of Bandon, Oregon. Then follow the signs either to the campground or to the lighthouse (will take 4-5 miles).
Where To Stay
If you like motels/hotels, you will find tons of offerings in the nearby towns of Port Orford, Bandon, and Gold Beach. There will be some vacation rentals, vrbos, AirBnB, etc.
We are actually campers, and recommend if you can that you enjoy Cape Blanco State Park by staying there in the campground, which is pretty big (52 sites). You can also camp at Bullards Beach State Park (which is great for rockhounders as well), Humbug Mountain State Park, and Sunset Bay State Park.
There are several very striking beaches on the south coast (around Gold Beach and Bandon especially), so we highly recommend that you explore both north and south of Cape Blanco.
Oregon Rockhounding Resources
If you are interested in having a physical book in hand while exploring Oregon (when wi-fi/cell signal is not reliable), consider:
Rockhounding Oregon: A Guide To The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites
Central Oregon Rockhounding Map (By the US Forestry Service)
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We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make looking for and checking out potential gifts quick and review easy!
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