Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach - Tufted Puffins and Tide Pools in Oregon
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach - Tufted Puffins and Tide Pools in Oregon

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach - Tufted Puffins and Tide Pools in Oregon

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is a popular destination for travellers worldwide throughout the year. Bring plenty of time and watch how the tides change Cannon Beach. The famous rock is 235 feet tall and estimated to be 17 million years old. Haystack Rock and the tide pools are popular but also known for birding, first of all, "Tufted Puffins".

Puffins in burrows in high elevations on the rock
Tufted puffins nest in burrows.

It is the best place in Oregon to spot them relatively close in the wild. Do you think you have seen this location already? Yes, this place is also well known from the Goonies movie. And according to Vogue in 2024, Haystack Rock is the best beach in the US.

visitors in front of Haystack Rock with a partly cloudy sky
The tidepools were still not visible four hours before low tide.

Cannon Beach is a great day trip from Portland, located 80 miles northwest, roughly a 1 ½ hour drive. I will give you all the needed information for the best time to visit, what to see when around Haystack Rock, what to wear and six tips for an exceptional day at this unique place at the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.

People are walking around the tidepools.
Now, one hour before low tide, the tidepools are accessible.

One hour before low tide is the best time to visit Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach. During these two hours around low tide, the tidepools are accessible, and you get much closer to the famous Haystack Rock. Breeding and nesting season starts in April and lasts until August. To be on the safe side, visit Cannon Beach between May and July at low tide at Haystack Rock to watch these cute birds.

A flying tufted puffin
They have orange feet and a shining white face during the breeding season.

Low tide in the morning or evening from May to July is the best time before the birds leave their nests for foraging and when they return in the evening.

A woman with warm clothes on Cannon Beach and Haystack in the back.
Dress warmly with several layers for the chilly wind like I did.

I will answer all your questions regarding Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach. For a better overview, I added a Table of Contents below:

Low Tide Details

Visitors walking to Haystack Rock
You won't believe it, but 45 minutes later, closer to low tide, the sky was blue.

I like to explain a little more about low tide and the differences between a "common" low tide and a negative tide. The tide difference is much higher during the full moon and new moon. For example, in August is a negative tide of -2,0 ft at low tide and 9,3 at high tide.

Birders with binoculars and camera.
The puffins are on the north grassy field high up on Haystack Rock.

A typical low tide can still be 2 ft high. Cannon Beach is flat, and a negative tide causes a huge decreasing sea level. A difference of 4 ft is a lot here. You get closer to Haystack Rock and the tidepools during such low tides. Tide Times Cannon Beach

Several types of birds and their nests and burrows
Tufted puffins and common murres often nest close to each other.

However, the protection of these birds is most important. Don't approach the rock at the bottom, but being on the same level with distance gives photographers and birders with binoculars better opportunities to watch the different bird species.

Does Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock Get Crowded?

Many people have a closer look to the tidepools.
The kids will love the huge beach and tide pools.

Cannon Beach is busy in the summer months, and visitors flock around the tide pools at low tide. Regarding the visitor centre, three-quarters of a million people visit the rock and beach annually. Nevertheless, the four-mile-long beach offers plenty of space to enjoy the entire surroundings.

Nearest Parking Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach Access

The access to Cannon Beach at the Wayfarer.
You are able to see Haystack Rock already from a distance.

The closest parking lot for free is at the Cannon Beach city hall. It is a five minutes walk to access Cannon Beach between the Ecola Inn Hotel and the Wayfarer.

Information boards and signs in Cannon Beach
Public restrooms are easy to find.

There are public restrooms on this short walk which you can't miss. We felt safe parking our car with our luggage here because it is next to the police station. Google Maps Location

Are you travelling in a van? Check carefully the signs where it is allowed to park with vans.

Is There an Entrance Fee Requested for Cannon Beach?

An information panel about the Birthright for Oregon's Beaches
Read the entire information panel about free access to Oregon's beaches.

Oregon's former Governor, Oswald West, established a unique law of publicly-owned beaches that are free to use in 1913. A new "Beach Bill" was signed by Governor Tom Mc Call in 1967 when too much privatization took place. This is an exceptional law that beaches belong to people. In other states of the US, we sometimes couldn't access beaches because of this privatization issue, warning signs that access is prohibited.

What Is Haystack Rock Famous For?

Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock and plenty of visitors.
The red car to the right belongs to the volunteers and staff taking care of the pools and rock.

Haystack Rock is famous for birding, especially for watching tufted puffins, but also for the fascinating tide pools, and on top, the beach is excellent for a long walk. This area is a real gem and is known from the Goonies movie.

Puffins and black birds with a white belly.
Two puffins and common murres in higher elevation on Haystack Rock.

The puffins breed on grassy slopes in higher elevations above 200 ft, while others breed in dark crevices below. Haystack Rock is 235 ft tall, therefore perfect for the tufted puffins for breeding.

A colony of cormorants and pelicans are flying above the rock.
Brandt's Cormorants' colony - the blue spots are the throat pouch during the breeding season. 

Most bird colonies are on offshore islands to protect themselves from land predators. Haystack Rock is an exceptional opportunity to observe this noisy spectacle from April to August. 

Sunset at Haystack Rock

Sunset at low tide at Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach
What a terrific location to watch the sunset.

Watching the sunset at Haystack Rock needs proper planning and a little luck. It is most breathtaking around low tide, but watching the sunset at this specific time works only for a couple of evenings in a month. The Oregon coast close to Washington is notorious for clouds and fog, which can spoil your plans. We arrived an evening before and spent a night in the Hallmark Resort & Spa. Thanks to our hotel's location and the sky suddenly opened up for a few minutes, we watched one of the most spectacular sunsets in our life. Sunrise-Sunset-Time

7 Facts About the Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock

A tufted puffin flying close to the rock.
The puffin returned from foraging with fish in the beak.
  1. Decades ago, thousands of tufted puffins bred along the Oregon coast. Unfortunately, the number decreased dramatically to hundreds, and this year in 2023, only 64 were counted at Haystack Rock. It is crucial not to disturb any of the birds.
  2. Usually, they return to their former burrow in the green grass in April and lay one egg from which a chick hatches after 42 days.
  3. They can catch roughly 20 small fish at a time and need to feed their chick four times daily.
  4. They spend most of their lives on the ocean and only come to rocky islands for breeding.
  5. They can dive 100 ft deep and more to catch small fish. Their short and stiff wings are made for diving deep but not so much for flying. Therefore, they nest on steep rocks and islands and just jump off the cliffs to get speed while falling. 
  6. They got this name from the yellow-white flumes, the eyebrow tufts above and behind the eyes. Males and females have it during the breeding season, and it falls off afterwards. 
  7. Tufted puffins can get 20 years and older, but climate change and humans are a significant threat.

How to Distinguish a Puffin From Other Birds?

A flying puffin and seagull
Although flying high, the puffins are easy to identify - puffin to the left.

You see plenty of flying birds, so how can you know if this is a puffin? Some characteristics help you to determine puffins. 

  • Puffins have an orange beak and a white face.
  • Orange feet during the breeding season
  • Black belly
  • They flap their wings quickly.

Cannon Beach at High and Low Tide

Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach was empty before low tide.
There is always a fresh breeze and spray in the air.

Cannon Beach is relatively flat, which causes a huge difference in how close you can get to Haystack Rock and its tidepools. If it is high tide, Haystack Rock is surrounded by the sea, which can get close to the shore, and the Pacific Ocean covers roughly eighty percent of the beach.

The outgoing tide and visitors walking on Cannon Beach
Several harlequin ducks swam here - more below.

During low tide, you can get to the tidepools; during a negative low tide, even half of the rock is not embraced by the ocean.

Haystack Rock Tide Pool Facts

Facts and information about birds and the pools.
Some areas are roped off.

The tide pools are already worth visiting Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach. These pools have been a protected "Marine Garden" since 1991, and collecting is prohibited. They are accessible roughly for two hours, one hour before and after low tide.

Lots of visitors in and around the tidepools.
I stood in the tidepools and was fascinated by the anemones and starfish.

When we visited Haystack Rock, the low tide was 1,26 ft, and I walked around many of these pools. Be aware of the cool water temperature of about 50°F/10°C end of May and reaching 57°F/14°C in August/September. If the sun is shining, you can easily withstand this cold temp, but it is hard on overcast days. 

Birds fly around Haystack Rock.
Seagulls try to steal eggs from the common murres on top of Haystack Rock.

Volunteers and wildlife safety attendants are around Haystack Rock at low tide to provide information and binoculars and keep visitors off the rocks to protect the living creatures. They are roping off the most sensitive and fragile areas to preserve the marine garden. Many information signs are placed around the tidepools, which is helpful for a better understanding. I appreciated what I saw in these pools even more. Thank You!

Listed are frequently seen creatures in the tide pools; some unbelievable are predators.

Ochre Sea Stars

Sea stars in the tidepools

These sea stars have neither eyes nor a brain but are top predators. Crabs, mussels, and snails are all on their menu.


Giant Green Anemones
Giant Green Anemones.

They are carnivorous, attracting prey with their colourful tentacles, equipped with toxins to paralyse and capture the prey. Also, they neither have brains nor eyes. They look beautiful when open in the water and are closed to protect themselves outside at low tide. Giant Green Anemones can grow to 30 cm and are one of the largest occurring in the world.

They feed mainly on the tentacles of the anemones despite the toxin and on sponges. Unfortunately, I hadn't seen any.


Loose mussels on the sea bed and pink anemones

There are different types of mussels; some are a delicacy. They produce a liquid like glue and are usually attached to the rocks for the rest of their lives. I love to eat such mussels, but they filter the water for feeding; one mussel is able to filter three litres per hour. Often plastic and other pollutants are detected in seashells.

Gooseneck Barnacles

Anemones and barnacles

They are crustaceans and also filter-feeders sticking to hard rocks. Barnacles are a delicacy too, which I often eat in Portugal.


Tiny crabs occur in the tide pools but are hard to spot only when moving.

Tidepool Sculpins

Two small fish: tidepool sculpins
There are two tidepool sculpins and pink anemones.

They are small fishes living in shallow and warmer water.

Tidepool Etiquette

They tidepool rules placed at Haystack Rock for visitors.
There is plenty of information around the pools placed..
  • Don't touch any of the creatures in the pools.
  • Don't stand on rocks which are covered with mussels or other creatures.
  • Don't collect anything from the pools.
  • Don't get too close to nesting birds; always watch from a distance.
  • Never feed animals or birds. The beach and rock are their natural environment; we are guests only!
  • Please, take all your trash with you. Leave nothing else than footprints in the sand.

How Was Haystack Rock Formed?

Haystack Rock from the front and a young boy to the right.
Absolutely impressive from all sides.

This 235 ft tall sea stack is millions of years old, formed by volcanic eruptions, erosions and the sea. The nearby active and dormant volcanos created the entire area. 

My 6 Tips for Cannon Beach

1 Visitor Centre

Visitor Centre in Cannon Beach

Check out the visitor centre, the staff is lovely, and they give you all the needed information, leaflets and maps. Google Maps Location 

2 Seafood Restaurant
The Ecola Seafood Restaurant
The Menu and prices from the Ecola Seafood Restaurant

Opposite are public restrooms and the Ecola Seafood Market and Restaurant. They offer fresh seafood, and you can dine indoors and outdoors. Check out this photo to see what we had for lunch. Open from 10 am – 8 pm Google Maps Location

3 Best Hotel
The best located hotel in Cannon Beach at the beach and Haystack Rock.
The Hallmark Resort & Spa offers the best view and location.

I highly recommend spending a night in Cannon Beach to watch the sunset and experience the beach during high and low tides. The best hotel location is the Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach opposite Haystack Rock, and you can sit on your balcony and watch the tides and sunset at this iconic landmark.

4 Rubber Boots

You can walk barefoot on a sunny day from May to September, and the sand is warm, but the Pacific Ocean in Oregon is cold. I saw visitors in rubber boots, which is definitely the best idea to stay warm and protect your feet from the rocks at low tide. Sea temperature Cannon Beach - Haystack Rock

5 Jacket
A woman looking to the entire beach
I was wearing several layers at Chapman Beach, looking at Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. 

Wear a coat at the beach; the wind is chilly.

6 Water

Bring a bottle of water for your visit to Cannon Beach. The beach is endless and fantastic to walk, especially during low tide, and you get thirsty when the sun shines.

Bird Species at Haystack Rock

Ducks swimming in the sea
Harlequin ducks - Close-shot of these ducks

Besides the puffins, you spot different types of cormorants. The beak and the colour around or under the eyes can help identify cormorants.


Cormorants sitting at the lower part of Haystack Rock
These are Pelagic Cormorants.
  • Brandt's Cormorants' throat pouch of the male's beak is blue during the breeding season. These cormorants are seen less often, found only in estuaries and on the sea.
  • Double-crested Cormorants have crests above their eyes in the breeding season and are the biggest cormorants. They are widespread across North America.
  • Pelagic Cormorants are the smallest cormorants. These birds tend to be solitary and nest with few others. They have a red patch under the eyes before the beak.

Common Murres

A small colony of common murres and sea gulls.
They have a white belly.

They occur on Haystack Rock and the biggest colony at the end of this long-stretched beach at Chapman Beach to the north. They nest tightly together so that arriving birds from the sea may land on the heads of others. They lay their egg on the rock and do not build nests. Their breast is white, and the rest are dark grey. They are excellent divers getting up to 150 feet deep for small fish.

Black Oystercatchers

Black Oystercatcher on a rock

These birds are easily identified by their typical call when they protect their nest. They are black with a red beak. Only 500-600 occur in Oregon, and some nest on Haystack Rock. They appear in the intertidal shorelines and seek for mussels and limpets but not oysters. These birds are monogamic mating for life.

Pigeon Guillemots

Pigeon Guillemot on the rock

These pigeons are black birds with white wing patches and orange-red feeds. They nest along the North Pacific coastline. The parents have a hard job feeding the chick up to 16 times a day during the breeding season.

Can I Walk My Dog on Cannon Beach?

Visitors and dogs on leashes at Haystack Rock

Yes, dogs on leashes are permitted close to Haystack Rock, and we saw plenty of them enjoying running on Cannon Beach. 

Best Months to Visit


Related Topics

Location and Tips

Oregon, Cannon Beach
United States
United States

Cannon Beach stretches for four miles, so you can easily escape the crowds in the busy summer months. There are more beaches before and after Cannon Beach, and it seems endless for walking.

A woman walking on the endless beach
Ecola State Park is in the distance.

I would like to thank the wonderful staff at the information centre, who provided me with tons of information for this article.

I took most of these pictures in one day. The weather can change from foggy and cloudy to a blue sky and sunny, all in one day.

Seals in the Pacific
We spotted seals from higher elevations in the nearby Ecola State Park.

I visited Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock and gathered all this information for you. If you like the article, I would be happy if you shared it with friends and on social media. If you want to support me, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and you may find some ideas for your next vacation.

A couple at Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the distance
This is Markus, and I am Micha. We are passionate travellers and have been married for 25 years.

If you wish to use any of my photos, contact me, but I will take action against picture theft. Why do I write this here? Hundreds of my pictures are used worldwide without any credit, nor did they get my permission. I don’t mind giving permission, but I want to get asked for it and to be mentioned. The World Wide Web has changed a lot, and rewriting honest travel content with AI is the new business for many fake travel websites. Do you wish to know more about this topic and how to unmask such websites quickly? Read my article “The Truth About Fake Travel Websites and Picture Theft.” 

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