BLOG: Complete Guide to Oregon Sand Dunes
The southern Oregon coast holds much for the outdoor adventurer. The shining star of this area is the natural sand dunes that collide with the ocean and coastal forest. For nearly 50 miles, these dunes lie between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains and extend from the mouth of the Siuslaw River to Cape Blanco at Coos Bay. It is the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes in the United States.
In 1972, over 32,000 acres of these dunes, which also encompass forest, streams, and lakes, were set aside as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and are part of the Siuslaw National Forest. In certain places, the dunes extend over 2 miles inland and can reach heights of up to 500 feet. All of this creates a wonderful playland where dune buggies zip around the sandy hilltops, making for an adrenaline-pumping experience.
An Unlikely Landscape
In certain places, the vast expanse of dunes can seem otherworldly. But these shifting sands have many secrets to uncover. Worn away from millions of years, the sands are essentially eroded pieces of the coastal range, ground up into tiny pies by weather and washed downstream. Water, waves, and wind pushed the sand back inland over time. All of this makes for a mysterious and some may say poetic place.
Be sure to visit the Oregon Dunes Visitor Center and headquarters located west of Highway 101 in Reedsport for the latest weather conditions, events and other information to help guide you on your dunes adventures.
Explore on Foot
Just south of Dunes City is the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area and a great way to start your dunes adventure on foot. A short trail leads you out to the beach. For longer hikes, there is an 8-mile trail network that is popular with backpackers and has freshwater sources available from Threemile Lake and Tahkenitch Creek. The Siltcoos Lake Trail is a lovely trail circling the water. For convenient access to some dunes, the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail satisfies. The Hall and Shuttpelz Lake Trail are a bit more off the beaten path for those that wish to avoid people.
For the quintessential dunes experience, check out the John Dellenback Trail. At just 2.5 miles, the undulating sand can make the trail markers challenging to follow, so be sure to bring a map.
While the hiking is superb, much of it does involve trekking in loose dry sand which can be taxing on the body. Even the fittest of hikers can be exhausted from dunes hikes, so be sure to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated. Still, these areas foster a diverse ecosystem, complete with elk, coyotes, cougars, seabirds, bald eagles, osprey, sea lions, and insects galore. Wild mushroom hunters will have a field day here as well, and those who care to partake can collect up to a gallon of mushrooms per day for personal use without a permit. Chantrelles, boletes, matsutake, and lobster mushrooms can be found.
Some great beaches can be accessed from the Taylor and Carter Dunes. Also, the Siltcoos Beach Day Access area has parking and vault toilets. Additionally, the Oregon Dunes Loop hike offers beach access.
The Dunes Off Road
Reedsport is the headquarters for renting ATVs or dune buggies or for joining a guided tour. South of town is where the dunes really take over the landscape and one can enjoy the tallest and most impressive dunes around the John Dellenback area. Bizarre, wind-carved formations of sand commonly called yardangs dominate the landscape. Several sand dune tour companies are located here, such as Spinreel in North Bend, Sandland Adventures, and Sand Dunes Frontier in Florence. All offer rides that will thrill even the most skeptical of visitors.
Sledding the Dunes? Yes, You Can
Yet another fun way to experiences these mountains of sand is to sled down them – fast! Go sandboarding in Sand Master Park in Florence. The world’s first park dedicated to the sport, you can rent boards and take to the dunes, testing your newfound skills on both beginner and expert slopes. For those more nimble, there are jumps and rails. In July and August, they even hold festivals centered around the art of sandboarding.
Enjoying the sand is not all there is to do around here. The Siltcoos River flows for about 3 miles from the lake to the Pacific. It is the perfect venue for paddling and fishing (salmon, trout, and bass).
Come stay with us at Bay Point Landing – the perfect home base for exploring these amazing sand dunes.