Best Photo Locations and Times

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds. - Psalm 148:7-10

Daytime Photography

The most common Haystack Rock photos are those taken during the middle of the day. Why? Because that's when the most people are here and walking on the beach. However, that does not mean it is the best time to take pictures.

Be aware of the time of day and where the sun is. If you are photographing the rock in the late afternoon, when the sun is in the west, you get a dark rock with little detail. While this can be very dramatic, it may not be the picture you want. In the winter the sun will often be to the south of the rock. Taking pictures from the north will result in a dark rock with little detail. So be aware of where the sun is, and if you want details, try to have the sun at least somewhat behind you. If you want to clearly see the details of the rock, take pictures in the morning.

haystack rock stormy weather

Above Photo: Taken on the beach where Gower Street meets the beach. This was a stormy day with rain and very high winds blowing the sand.

Common Photo Locations

  • On the beach next to Haystack Rock. This is the vantage point from which most people take their photos. This requires a little walking, but it is worth the walk, especially at low tide.

  • If you want a picture taken from the beach, but don't want to do much walking, a common location is on the beach at the foot of Gower street. There is a municipal parking lot at the corner of Hemlock and Gower streets. Walk west on Gower until you are on the beach, and Haystack Rock will be to your left. You can take a picture from there, or walk down the beach to get as close as you want.

  • One of the best locations for photographing The Rock straight on is from the stairs located on Hemlock Street near Viewpoint Terrace. A satellite view (Image below is copyright Google. Click on the image for a closer view on Google.) The biggest problem is that close by parking is very limited. There is a pull-off on the east side of Hemlock that has room for three cars. Another option is to park further north on Hemlock and then walk to the stairs. It is an easy walk along the side of the road. Go down the stairs and you'll come to a platform near the bottom. That platform is an excellent place for photos of the rock. You can also continue down onto the beach right in front of Haystack Rock (as recommended above).

  • Take Haystack Rock photos from the stairs

  • From the viewing platform in Haystack Hill State Park: There is a state park within the city of Cannon Beach, and if you like hiking you may be able to get some good photos of The Rock from more of a southeastern angle. There is a viewing platform within the park that provides an excellent view, from high on the hill, looking down at the beach and Haystack Rock. However, the park does not get much maintenance attention, so the view may be blocked by vegetation, or the viewing platform could be in disrepair. But, if you don't get a photo, at least you'll have had a nice hike.

    Use this link for more info on Haystack Hill State Park.

  • Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area: Continuing south the next accessible location for photographing the rock is at Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area. There is a large parking lot here, but in the summer it fills up early in the day. From this vantage point you are looking at the south side of Haystack Rock. It is an easy walk up the beach to get closer to The Rock. However, do not plan on walking back on the road. There are some tight curves, with little room for walking on the side, and I would not feel safe the way some cars speed through those curves. Plan on walking back to your car on the beach.

  • From Ecola Head in Ecola State Park: Changing direction and going north through Cannon Beach, this outstanding state park is located just north of Cannon Beach. There is a $5.00 parking fee per vehicle. The park has a high cliff facing to the south providing an excellent view of Haystack Rock, the city of Cannon Beach, and the ocean.
haystack rock with dog

Above: Haystack Rock photo taken from the west end of West Van Buren Street. Not only is there a good view of the The Rock, there is a bench there that provides a good view of the sunset.

Using A Drone: Photographing Haystack Rock

It is illegal tp fly a drone near Haystack Rock without permission, so don't do it. Haystack Rock is a sensitive nature area, and drones may not be flown anywhere near the rock.

Haystack Rock Sunset Photos

In my opinion the most dramatic photos of Haystack Rock are sunset photos. But you need to be here when there is a good sunset. Really great sunsets, with a large area of sky painted red, do not happen frequently. On cloudy days (winter) there is no sun. On blue sky days (summer) there are no clouds to reflect the light from the setting sun. The ideal day is when the sky is mostly clear with a few high, thin clouds.

Also, there is often a low cloud bank (fog) out on the water. The result is that the sun sets behind the fog bank sooner than expected, about 15 to 20 minutes before it normally sets.

The angle of the sun also makes a difference. It is more difficult to get good sunset pictures of Haystack Rock in the summer, because the sun is too far north. The best time of year for Haystack Rock sunset pictures is January and February. Cannon Beach often gets some nice weather in February, with the sun setting directly to the west of Haystack Rock, making for a spectacular photo.

haystack rock from the south

Haystack Rock Summer

In the summer the sun is relatively high in the sky and farther north. You need to be on the beach and to the south of Haystack Rock to get a good sunset picture. Also, in the summer the sunsets tend to be shorter in duration (the sun sets quicker), so don't be late. The above photo was taken in the summer. I needed to be significantly south of Haystack Rock in order to include the sunset colors.

Haystack Rock Winter

In the winter the sun is lower in the sky and much further south. You can get good pictures by positioning yourself on the beach east of Haystack Rock.

In either case, arrive at your photo location a little early, and be patient.

How To Know How Long It Is Until Sunset

You can approximate the amount of time until sunset using your hand. Hold you had in front of you at a full arm's length, with your fingers (hand bent so that your fingers are facing your face. Put your little finger on the horizon and note which finger the sun is behind. Count the number of fingers between the horizon and the sun. Each finger equals 15 minutes. So if the sun is behind your middle finger, there is about 30 minutes before the sun will set. (This is an approximation that works fairly well. But results may vary from person to person.)

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