Visit the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

All-Terrain Vehicles Hitting the Dunes
Dave G. Houser / Getty Images

Whether you're thinking about visiting the dunes in Oregon for an interesting hike, going on a tour or hitting the dunes yourself in an ATV, this area off the Oregon Coast is perfect for a unique adventure.

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area occupies just over 40 miles of the Oregon Coast, between the towns of North Bend and Florence. At some points, the boundaries of the Oregon Dunes NRA go inland as far as three miles, and the entire Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area covers over 32,000 acres. So it is expansive and rife with possibilities, to say the least.

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 massive as 500 feet high. At the beach the sand is coarse grained, while the sand farther inland is finer grained. The dunes and the surrounding landscape are constantly being reshaped by the forces of wind and water.

You'll find much more than mountains of sand in the Oregon Dunes region. Fascinating 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 foxes. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is also dotted with freshwater lakes, formed when the sand deposits blocked the flow of streams. These lakes provide an ideal setting for all kinds of recreation, including camping, swimming and boating.

Visitor Center

This small visitor center, located at 855 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: Three 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 up the sandy 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 can't or don't want to 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).
  • Look for 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).

Fun Things to Do Near the Oregon Dunes NRA

Was this page helpful?