The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches out for 40 miles along Oregon’s Pacific coast. That’s a big area, which means there’s a wide variety of access points and types of recreation available — from hiking to off-road vehicle use.
Unfortunately, the dunes block most of the ocean views from US Highway 101. Another downside: since this is Federal land, access isn’t free, like it is at dozens of state-run roadside parks.
After driving for miles along US 101, with the Oregon Dunes separating me from the ocean, I was getting anxious to see some waves. Since much of the Oregon Dunes NRA is reserved for people with dune buggies or campers, I was glad to find a spot that would allow me to make a casual visit.
The Oregon Dunes Day Use Area is located about 11 miles south of Florence. A short side-road off of US 101 takes you to a parking area, with a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform. It’s the perfect place to stop for a quick viewing of the sand dunes.
From the viewpoint, you can look south at the sandy bluffs. The dunes in this area can be as high as 500 feet above sea level.
The ocean is quite a long distance from here, but you can venture off the boardwalk and onto the sand, for what I imagine would be a rather tiring slog through the loose terrain.
This faded hiking sign provided me with some reassurance that I was, indeed, allowed to be hiking out here.
In addition to this area, there are several other options for hiking and casual beach-visiting, including the South Jetty area (at the very north, between the Siuslaw River and the ocean), Tahkenitch Creek, and John Dellenback Trail further south. Three areas are set aside for motorized vehicle use, including Jessie Honeyman State Park, just south of the Jetty area. It even has a couple of freshwater lakes, one suitable for boating, the other, swimming. Camping opportunities abound in the area.
And if you want to venture out on a dune buggy, there are plenty of places in the area that will rent you one, or take you on a tour.
The Bottom Line
The next time I’m in the area, I need to go on a dune buggy ride. For a quick visit, it’s nice to go out to a viewpoint and see the sand dunes, but that’s about all I would want to do. Hiking in the sand is tiring, and not particularly rewarding.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located between the Coos River at North Bend (at the south end) and the Siuslaw River at Florence (at the north end). The NRA is divided into four areas: Spinreel to Horsefall (in the south), Umpqua Dunes (in the middle), Tahkenitch (in the north), and South Jetty (at the very north end).
My visit was at the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area, in the middle of the Tahkenitch area.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Reedsport, through Florence, to Yachats: