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First Operational: 1868

Height: 43 feet

Accessibility: Lighthouse/grounds open during tours

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Visitor Information


Grounds: Sunrise to Sunset

Lighthouse: Open throughout the summer when docents available, contact Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society


1176 Lower Pacific Dr,

Whitethorn, CA 95589

  • U.S. 101 to the Redway/Garberville exit.

  • Follow signs to Shelter Cove/King Range NCA on Briceland/Thorn and Shelter Cove Roads. 

  • Turn left (south) onto Upper Pacific Road at the end of Shelter Cove Road. 

  • Follow Upper Pacific Road and merge right onto Lower Pacific Road. 

  • Mal Coombs Park is on left (ocean) side of the roadway.


Cape Mendocino is one of the most dangerous points on California Coast, a dramatic headland on the Lost Coast (arguably the most inaccessible portion of the West Coast) where earthquakes are common due to the Mendocino Triple Junction, a location where the Gorda, Plate, the Pacific Plate, and the North American Plate converge. At the this isolated spot, the site of many shipwrecks, a lighthouse was built in 1868 to warn ships away from Cape Mendocino. 

The lighthouse, constructed of iron plates, was built atop a precarious bluff with a sweeping view of the rocks and reefs hundreds of feet below. Alongside, a two story duplex, barn, and carpenter shop were built. The lighthouse bears a resemblance to Point Reyes further down the coast, including with its first order fresnel lens. 

The station was difficult to live in, as storms and earthquakes frequently damaged the lighthouse and its outbuildings. However, the station was manned until 1939, when keepers left the houses and the lighthouse was automated roughly a decade later. The lens was later installed in a replica of the lighthouse on the Humboldt County Fairgrounds, which still stands today. The lens was eventually removed and is now in storage with the Coast Guard.

The keepers dwellings and other outbuildings were eventually burned in the 1960's, and the lighthouse was replaced by an automated beacon in 1971. It was in danger of being lost forever until the lighthouse was relocated and restored in the town of Shelter Cove in 1998-99. Today the lighthouse is easily accessible and maintained by the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society in Mel Coombs Park.

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