Surreal Sandscape

Hike to the Biggest Dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

It’s a stunning landscape that inspired the sci-fi classic Dune (and hence its recent blockbuster adaptation), but no special effects are needed to enhance the scenery of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This 42 miles of coastal bounty—sand, forest, rivers, and lakes—is both ethereal and surreal.

Hiker at Taylor Dunes in Oregon Dunes Recreation Area

John Dellenback Dunes is the largest of the dune-scapes here. There’s a 6-mile (round-trip) hike through forest and dunes, all the way out to the beach. But the most popular thing to do is to just play on the dunes! You can get to the biggest dune in less than a mile and climb it for a cinematic panorama all the way out to the sea on clear days. Go a bit later in the afternoon during winter and you may have the dunes all to yourself.

Hikers wandering the vast and wide John Dellenback dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Log roll, stroll, leap for joy, and watch as the late-day sun glints off the golden dunes. If you decide to do the 6-mile (round-trip) hike out to the ocean, be careful on your timing: Hiking in the sand is slow going, and you have to follow sign-posts that can be difficult to see on foggy days. For a shorter hike through the forest and amid smaller yet lovely dunes and grasslands, head to Taylor Dunes for a 2.6-mile (out-and-back) journey that spills out at a vast beach.

Explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Hikers at Beach after hiking through Taylor Dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Go Guided! Ride the dunes and get epic views with the pro guides at Sand Dunes Frontier. Hop in a Dune Buggy for a thrilling ride over the dunes with huge views, or jump into one of their famous Big Purple Buggies for a scenic and interpretive ride with plenty of stops for pictures. You’ll definitely be smiling.

Stay: With the Siuslaw River running through it and the exquisite gothic arches and architecture of the bridge, Florence is backed by beautiful rolling sand dunes and fronted by a downtown filled with artisan shops and cozy waterfront restaurants (seafood is a specialty here). We like River Roasters Espresso & Gifts … great coffee and breakfast snacks, and unique handcrafted gifts.

Discover Oregon's 7 Distinct Regions and Get More Trip Ideas

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Berkeley's Backyard Waterfall

    Tucked among the hillside homes of North Berkeley is a winding stairway that leads to the “secret” entrance of a Narnia-like canyon with a 40-foot waterfall.

    View
  2. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike. The start of th

    View
  3. Falls of the Wild

    Through the redwoods you’ll go on this adventurous 9-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. This hike is loaded with charms, but the big riches come from viewing Maple Falls, a 30-foot stunner that comes to life after rains.

    View
  4. Hood's New Trail

    Tucked just on the edge of Sonoma Valley near Santa Rosa, Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve has a brand-new trail leading up to a brilliant picnic spot with a panorama of Sonoma Valley all the way out to the ocean.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Can You Keep a Secret?

    The Southern Oregon Coast's Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor between Gold Beach and Brookings has so many sights to see, it’s hard to know where to spend your time. We like this trio of suggestions because you can do them as a three-in-a-row jackpot of coastal wonders.

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Ojai There!

    If a substantive and super scenic bike ride is right in your wheelhouse, do the 30-mile (round-trip) Ventura-to-Ojai bike path that begins (and ends) near the Ventura shoreline, pit stopping in delightful Ojai for food and drinks.

    View
  4. Fountain to the Falls

    There are three ways to reach the lovely Monrovia Canyon Falls, but only one of them is worthy of being named a good challenge!

    View