Polly & Paul on the fabulous Oregon Dunes

There’s a whole lotta sand out here. In fact if your mind didn’t know you were in Oregon your eyes would think you landed in the Sahara Desert. A sudden urge to wear long, flowing garments and mount a camel overcomes you. Or perhaps your inner child gets the upper hand and you run up the mountain of sand, leap frivolously into the air and cannon-ball down the slope. Either way you know this moment is rather surreal and completely unique.

We’re in the dunes of Oregon, baby, it’s a totally different world out here and the sunshine has come out to greet our arrival.

But before I get carried away by sand-waves and imaginary stories, let me tell you a little about this area. The Oregon dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Formed over millions of year by wind and rain, these ever-shifting mountains stretch a mind-boggling 40 miles (~64 km) from Florence to Coos Bay along the central OR coast. At points the massive sand-mass runs 2.5 miles in-land and rises 500 feet above sea level. It’s all protected as a Recreation Area and yet completely open to the public with large areas set-aside for off-road vehicles and other areas dedicated for day-use, horses or hikers. This being Oregon it’s also super dog-friendly allowing off-leash voice-control while on the dunes (I love it!)

Brilliant color on the sand-trail

Most people come here to ride the dunes, but our goal was to hike them and preferably all to ourselves (it’s a simple request, no?). A quick stop at the Visitor Center in Reedsport informed us the biggest and least-visited dunes were in the South with the 6-mile round-trip John Dellenback trail being the best bet for an all-round experience. The fact that this trail was only ~1 mile from our campground was just a cool bonus. With sunshine in the forecast and the surety of fine views we were set to go!

And the trip was probably one of the coolest hikes I’ve done. The dunes are not just sand but a complex eco-system of high dunes, low-lying lakes & plains, tree islands (small isolated remnants of older coastal forests), sand plants, coastal forest and beach. The hike takes you through ALL of it. Right from the tallest wind-swept dunes to thick, moist forest and all the way to the beach. Parts of the trail are marked, but the poles get constantly buried and it’s easy to get lost without a bearing. For that very reason so very few folks actually come here and we had literally the entire 3-hour hike to ourselves.

Two trail-posts one of which is almost completely buried

So, what was it actually like? Long wind-swept ripples of sand, curves of color and texture, spots of brilliant flowers, blasts of blue sky and horizons of dark clouds. All this interwoven with surprising lakes and dense coastal forest.  Polly went dog-bananas on the dunes and your truly was swept-away by the photography. It’s totally everything you expect and much, much more. Despite taking 3 hours to hike it was so varied and interesting the time practically sped away.

So my advice is embrace those long robes, release your inner child and take the trip over and away here to the dune-sands of time. You most definitely won’t regret it!

Textures and patterns like nothing else

Gorgeous, refreshing ocean!

Deep forest ~1/2 mile before the beach

Oasis in the desert -> could this be any cooler?

Coast strawberries are all over the dunes

More amazing color in the sand

Sun lights up the dunes

Footsteps in the sand

Seashore sunshine

More dune magic

43 Responses to Sunshine & Mountains Of Sand – Oregon Dunes, OR

  1. I had no idea there were sand dunes like this in OR. Such an interesting hiking trail and such diverse topography and colors. We are in a hiking frame of mind right now so this sounds absolutely divine to us. Oregon seems to be agreeing with all of you.

  2. Glad you were able to get some time all to yourselves. What a great hike. Thanks for sharing.

  3. ROBI Hutton says:

    I love your pics! Thank you for sharing this beautiful spot. I too had no idea it existed.

  4. rommel says:

    I do am curious about the dunes we have here in California. I’d be so static if I ever do consider going to a hike through miles of sands. It’s just that … I hate too much sun. Hehe. Plus, I’d be myself alone. With you mentioning ‘all by yourselves”, I’d feel very isolated and probably will get very lost.

    That first photo is frame-worthy! You oughtta hang it on the wall. :D

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s definitely easy to get lost out here once you’re in the middle of the dunes. Hiking with a partner and a compass is a good idea.
      I do love that 1st shot too…my fav for sure!
      Nina

  5. Lee and Shelia says:

    Great pictures and writing. I do need to ask would that have been a 1 hump camel or 2? Can not wait to visit the coast next week. We have visited the coast before nut not in a Motor Home. We were in a car going at the speed of sound, we are are retired and can slow down to smell the sand strawberries.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh most definitely 2 humps…much more comfortable ride :)
      You and your motorhome would love it up here. SO many spots to RV.
      Nina

  6. What a great place to check out! Thanks, we added it to our maps when we get out that way next year.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House… BIG Backyard
    http://kareninthewoods-kareninthewoods.blogspot.com

  7. So, you’re saying that Oregon is fairly nice?

    Is the sky really that blue there? Like Arizona blue?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hmmmm…wellll….YES!!
      And blue. Well OR weather is tricky so it depends when you’re looking, but when the sun is out it is SUPER-blue…oh yeah baby!
      Nina

  8. Donna K says:

    Glad Oregon is finally allowing its sun to shine down on you. Beautiful pictures and commentary. Hope you find much more to please you while you are in Oregon.

  9. Well, we’d like to ride the dunes. Actually, we’ve been planning on doing that when we start heading south again. Your photos looked beautiful.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well you guys will find no end of opportunity to ride here. LOTS of spots dedicated to dune-buggies…even a few RV parks too! We just drove past an RV park today (Discovery Point RV Resort) where you could literally drive your ATV directly from the park into the dunes..seemed the perfect spot for dune-riders. They do rentals too.
      Nina

  10. jil mohr says:

    what kind of shoes do you wear hiking in the dunes….I have never really liked hiking dunes not because I don’t like sand I just find it very hardnto walk in let alone hike…but i do like the flowers you took photos of…very delicate and I like the look of dunes….me I would rather walk along the waters edge….glad you got sun….

    • libertatemamo says:

      We only have one hiking shoe and those are our Keen Sandals. Best all-round hiking shoe IMHO. They’re open and beathe (great for sand), can walk through water (great for coastal wet) and are lightweight.
      By the way seems quite a few folks just hike the first 1/2 mile of this trip (to get a dune view) and then turn around. So that’s a possibility if you’re not super into the longer hike.
      Nina

  11. odderanswer says:

    “refreshing ocean”? Come on, be honest, it’s bloody freezing!
    The dunes sound a bit like the US equivalent of the Aussie Fraser Island.

    • libertatemamo says:

      LOL…OK you got me there. It was bleedin’ freezing. Enough to put hair back on your chest and back at the same time. Sure did feel nice on the feet though!
      Nina

  12. Aubrey Blalock says:

    Excellent writing and photography. Nice coverage of the area. Love to read your posts.

  13. Jeannie says:

    Not a big fan of hiking in the sand, but you make it sound like fun! Next time we are in Oregon, we’ll have to give it a try once again. Loved the Michigan dunes as a kid, so that inner child is calling once again… :-)

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know the dunes were pretty firm. It had been raining for 2 days before the hike so that might have made the difference. I would certainly recommend hiking the first 1/2 mile (just to see the dunes) even if you don’t do the full thing.
      Nina

  14. You guys are hopeless romantics — you see the beauty and joy and fun, and you frolic in it. We have other friends who are currently on the coast. They are analysts, and must over-analyze everything, measure it, divide it, and always — ALWAYS — find something to complain about while they are doing it. To each his own, but we like your approach better!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, I am most definitely a hopeless romantic! My first boyfriend told me I would grow out of it, but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet! I just love to see the beauty in things :)
      Nina

  15. We liked the dunes but the weather didn’t cooperate when we were there. Wanted to let you know we’ve been in northern New Mexico the past few weeks and stayed at many of the places you recommended. You haven’t steered us wrong yet! Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh excellent!! I LOVE hearing that others have benefitted from our blog & spots to visit. So happy to hear that! Enjoy your time in NM. We are definitely going back there someday!
      Nina

  16. Jeff and Cheryl says:

    If you are still near Reedsport, check out the wildlife preserve just east of town. The Elk are magnificant.

  17. jil mohr says:

    Also check out the book store there too…the bookstore is on the road that goes east from 101 to I-5 the same road the preserve is on….I should say that Tom said I am wrong it is nothing like Powell but it is only used books and mostly paperbacks….

  18. [...] Boondocking ← Sunshine & Mountains Of Sand – Oregon Dunes, OR [...]

  19. [...] going 3 miles around the lake (right from the campground), and the very next day we landed the gorgeous John Dellenback trail only ~1 mile from the campground (it’s gotta be one of the top 5 hikes on the Oregon coast [...]

  20. [...] and pretty 3-mile hiking trail along the lake-side. You are only a few miles from dune access (e.g. John Dellenback Trail) and the lovely Umpqua Lighthouse and Winchester Bay. Only slight ding is no direct beach/dune [...]

  21. [...] Dunes & John Dellenback Trail -> Another place worth hiking twice (or twenty times!). Pooch came along and we played like kids on the dunes for an entire afternoon. [...]

  22. [...] revelled in a cool summer on the Oregon Coast, falling in love with the giant sand dunes, the beach moods, the lighthouses, the stunning sea stacks, wild Cape Blanco and the cute town [...]

  23. […] the 40 miles of the dunes, but there’s also some pretty cool hikes (last year we loved  John Dellenback Trail so much we did it twice!), not to mention another excellent lighthouse. The real kicker and […]

  24. Peter says:

    Please you guys….Don’t oversell Oregon….puleeezzzee…..Hopefully we will come down and test you on the tour….Cheers, Peter and Janice

  25. […] price! Plus you are walking distance to downtown Winchester Bay and a short drive to exploring the awesome coastal dunes, Umqua River Lighthouse and the beach. There are 166 “sites” in the marina, but it […]

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