The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area occupies just over 40 miles of the Oregon coast line, between the towns of North Bend and Florence. At some points, the boundaries of the Oregon Dunes NRA go inland as far as 3 miles. The entire Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area covers over 32,000 acres.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
The sand dunes of the Oregon Dunes are made up of light-colored sand blown in by the wind and deposited over thousands of years. The dunes can be as much as 500 feet high. At the beach the sand is coarse grained; the sand farther inland is finer grained. The dunes and the surrounding landscape are constantly being reshaped by the forces of wind and water. But you'll find much more than mountains of sand in the Oregon Dunes region. Tree islands dot the dunes. These tree islands are the remains of large forests that were overcome by the deposits of sand.
A number of creatures live in these tree islands, including bears and gray fox. The Oregon Dunes NRA is also dotted with freshwater lakes, formed when the sand deposits blocked streams. These lakes provide an ideal setting for all kinds of recreation, including camping, swimming, and boating.
This small visitor center, located along Highway 101 in Reedsport, should be one of your first stops. You find a wealth of information about what you can do during your Oregon Dunes adventure. Rangers are available to answer your questions about where you can go, what you can do, and what permits might be required. There are also displays covering the geology and wildlife of the Oregon Dunes.
Hiking Trails at the Oregon Dunes
You can choose from many scenic hiking trails in and around the Dunes Recreation Area. Trails can run through forests, around wetlands, along the beach, or among the dunes. Be warned, hiking on sand is extremely hard work! Here are a few trail recommendations:
- Lagoon Loop Trail: easy, flat hike along wetland.
- Waxmyrtle Trail: 3 miles through wetlands and estuary to beach.
- Oregon Dunes Overlook Trail: partially paved and easy, partially through sand.
Off Highway Vehicles (OHV)
Unless you are in seriously good aerobic condition and are able to hike in amongst the dunes, some kind of OHV is required to fully explore the dunes landscape. OHVs include such recreational vehicles as dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and four-wheel drives. The Oregon Dunes are a popular destination for OHV enthusiasts. Several of the campgrounds within the NRA allow OHV use, making them a great base for your Oregon Dunes adventure.
Other Ways to Experience the Oregon Dunes
If you don't operate an OHV yourself, there are other ways to get up close and personal with the Oregon Dunes. A number of local companies provide dune buggy and sandrail tours that can be as fast and wild or slow and scenic as you'd like. Sand Dunes Frontier, located just south of Florence, offers dunes tours in a variety of different-sized vehicles. Horses - the original off-road vehicle - are another way to explore the dune terrain. Horse back rides can be arranged through C&M Stables.
More Fun Things to Do Within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Whether you're interested in low-key sightseeing or a more active adventure, you'll find many fun things to do on a visit to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
- View the dunes from the boardwalk at the Oregon Dunes Overlook.
- Paddle around Cleawox Lake in Honeyman State Park (boat rentals available).
- Try sandboarding; rentals, gear, and lessons available at Sand Master Park in Florence (541-997-6006).
- Spot birds such a herons and egrets among the wetlands, rivers, lakes, and beaches.
- Fish in the freshwater lakes or the Siuslaw and Umpqua rivers (license required).