When you think of sand dunes, desert-y places like New Mexico and Colorado probably come to mind. But our beloved Oregon is home to some gorgeous dunes right on the coast. On the Oregon coast, there’s a place where pine trees and yellow wildflowers open up to a sweeping display of rolling, grass-speckled dunes. Here’s how to get there, what to expect, and the scoop on what activities you can do there!
Sand Dunes on the Oregon Coast
Where are the dunes?
Oregon is home to a 40 mile stretch of dunes along Highway 101, located in the aptly named Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The sand dunes extend from North Bend up through Florence, with various access points in between. Some areas are designated for hiking and exploring by foot. In other areas, you can ride an ATV or drive your vehicle on the dunes. This map is helpful when you’re trying to figure out which activities you can do in which areas.
How to get to the sand dunes in Oregon
So, there are a few ways to get to the dunes, and a few different places you can go to see them. If you’re looking for beautiful scenery and views of the Oregon Coast sand dunes and don’t mind an easy walk, I’d recommend one spot in particular. Enter “Oregon Dunes Day Use Area” into your navigation app and head there. There’s a parking lot, restroom, and viewing platform right where you pull in.
From the parking lot, you can head down the trail to the dunes to get a closer look. The trail is shaded and winds down to the beach through the trees. When you reach the sand, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning sight of mighty evergreens looming over otherworldly dunes, all in view of the Pacific Ocean. It looks like a totally different planet!
What to do at the dunes
Whether you want to explore the sand dunes on foot or on four wheels, you’re in luck. There are a number of hiking trails and recreational areas throughout the park. Here’s a little cheat sheet to help you find the best hikes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area. Bring a picnic lunch to eat at the top of one of the dunes!
If riding is more your style, a local company like Torex ATV Rentals can set you up to cruise your way through designated motorized vehicle sites. Torex is the only company in Florence that offers direct access to the sand, so you can start exploring right away. Zipping up and down the dunes on four wheels is one of the best ways to soak up this gorgeous landscape, so don’t miss out!
Oregon Coast Sand Dunes FAQs
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is home to not only the biggest sand dunes in Oregon, but the largest coastal dunes in all of North America.
Portland is approximately 150 miles from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and it usually takes between 3 and 4 hours to drive from Portland to the coastal dunes.
You can drive your vehicle on almost half of the land within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Motorized vehicles are permitted in designated areas, which are listed and explained here.
No, “Dune” wasn’t filmed here – though the author of the series, Frank Herbert, has said that a visit to these very dunes inspired him to write the story!
Looking for more low cost adventures in Oregon? If so, check out Astoria, a tiny town with coastal charm and killer clam chowder.