Oregon Sand Dunes


The Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area is located on the central coast of Oregon, slightly less than two hours by car west of Eugene and 3.5 hours southwest of Portland. The recreation area is administered by the National Forest Service and is officially a part of the adjacent Siuslaw National Forest. The actual beaches are organized as an Oregon State Park. This unit maintains a visitor center in nearby Reedsport (855 Highway Avenue, open Monday-Friday 8 am - 4:30 pm, Saturdays open in the summer), where further information, maps and a small store are available. The Sand Dunes are not only an interesting spot for everyone looking to take a walk on and between the dunes, but they also cover one of the most beautiful sections of the Oregon coast with many outdoor opportunities.

OR Sand Dunes

The Oregon Sand Dunes stretch over a total length of about 65 kilometers along the Oregon Pacific Coast, from the small town of Florence in the North to North Bend in the South, where Coos River flows into the Ocean. The sand monument was created over millions of years by the erosive forces of wind and weather. Individual dunes can be up to 150 meters high, creating a fascinating terrain for hikers and photographers, but also an extended playground for those visitors looking to ride ATVs between the sand hills.

It should be noted that motorized vehicles are not permitted in some sections of the National Recreation Area. Generally speaking, the areas in the north are off-limit for ATV use, while there are some designated areas marked as “OHV zones” in the southern half. In general, tours are distinguished between those along dedicated routes and so-called “open area riding”.

The Oregon Sand Dunes separated into six sections, each of which offers various recreation opportunities. In the northern half, the South Jetty Area is the area closest to Florence. Here, several parking lots enable easy access to the beach and there are also toilets available here as South Jetty also has a campground. Another one can be found in the adjoining Siltcoos Area. Here, beach access is limited and especially so for motorized vehicles as a number of bird species live at the coast. However, there are several nice and easy hiking trails here including two that lead along the stream and through a short forest section all the way to the ocean. This section is followed by Tahkenitch Area, easily accessible from Highway 101. The special feature here is Tahkenitch Lake, a fresh water lake not far from the ocean coast which can be used for fishing. At the lake, more campgrounds are available and the trails here can be used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Offroad vehicles are not permitted here. For these, directly adjacent to the north the most popular offroad area is located, Umpqua Dunes Area, which has designated routes as well and where OHV zones for freestyle driving are also available.  Hikers find a path leading over high dunes and directly to the ocean coast. The Umpqua River and three smaller lakes can be found in the hinterland. A campground with quick beach access is also available here. Finally, the section at the southernmost end of Oregon Dunes Recreation Area is called Spinreel to Horsfall Area, another area that mostly is open for offroad vehicles. Furthermore, riders and hikers find trails here, too, leading to the beach. Also worth visiting is Horsfall Lake, located in the backcountry.

The area around Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is also worth a visit, not at least because further accommodation options are available there. In Florence for example, there is a popular casino, a history museum housed in a former, historic schoolhouse and, outside of town, the Sea Lion Caves. In this cave system, overflowed by water with the tide, two different sea lion species are at home and visitors have good and easy opportunities to watch them. For this purpose, there is an elevator there, bringing visitors down to the caves. With a little luck, even whales passing by in the ocean can be seen from a viewing platform.



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