The Oregon Dunes stretch for over 40 miles from Coos Bay to Florence. The stretch of sand between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range is the largest area of coastal sand dunes in North America. The area was designated The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in 1972 and is administered by the United States Forest Service.
The individual dunes reach a height of 500 feet and three miles wide in some areas and are popular for ORV driving particularly with dune buggies, sand surfing, hiking, horse back riding, and even dog sledding. The dunes are popular with nature lovers and the winter months are particularly good for bird watching. There are 30 lakes where you can fish and swim and 14 hiking trails. You can camp, take a tour, or go for a guided dune buggy ride. The dune buggys and ATV's are limited to certain areas so if you don't want to be bothered by their noise you can keep away from them.
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When you arrive at any of the towns along the dunes you will probably wonder, "So where's the sand?" You arrive expecting to see these giant sand dunes like from the Sahara Desert and you see nothing. You can't even see the ocean. So what's the big deal?
You have to be in the dunes before you can really see them and there are limited entrances from Highway 101. If it is your first time visiting, it might be a good idea to stop at the Tourism Information Center in Reedsport where you can get all kinds of information. It is located where Highway 101 and Highway 38 intersects.
If you would like to see the dunes but don't want to take the time to ride or walk through them, you can get a good view from the Oregon Dunes Overlook halfway between Reedsport and Florence on Highway 101. There are platforms with railings and wooden walkways. You can walk the trail down to the sand and the beach is about a mile away if you do want to walk that far.
The "trails" in the dunes are not like in a forest. There really are no paths. The sands are constantly shifting. Where there is a dune one day, there may be a gully the next day. Trails are marked by posts pounded into the sand so you follow from post to post. Walking is not as easy as walking on a forest trail because you are walking in soft sand and it will take you longer to go the same distance.
If you don't have your own ATV, ORV, or dune buggy there are lots of places where you can rent one. If you don't want to drive a dune buggy yourself, there are tours you can take. You can also rent boards for sandboarding.
Oregon Dunes camping is very popular. There are campgrounds for those who want to walk the trails, for those who want peace and quiet, for horseback riding, and for dune buggy enthusiasts. Visit Oregon Dunes Camping for information on all of these campgrounds.