Time to visit the Oregon Coast Dunes. The famous Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches from the north end at Florence to North Bend going south. They are part of the Siuslaw National Forest with various access points along the 43 mile stretch of sands. A variety of vegetation grows in the sand. Here are the Dunes at North Bend just before crossing the bridge.
The Dunes are a popular recreation area for ATVs that run continuously weekends and week days during the better weather. Some weekends they create sand clouds and a lot of noise that can be heard from quite far away. The ATVers enjoy it and often whole families venture out in full protective gear. Similar to driving on the highways, this activity is not without some dangers. Good sense, responsible driving and some pre-Duneing knowledge can prevent accidents.
Rental ATVs are available near the ATV accessible areas at Florence, Honeyman State Park, Winchester Bay and North Bend. Rentals usually include helmets and other needed equipment.
There are a variety of recreational options available. Ten miles south of Florence is the Oregon Dunes Overlook. Watching the Dunes and Ocean in a quiet atmosphere is popular here, ATVs not allowed. There is a marked hiking trail that takes you to the ocean and back that is fun. Picnic areas tucked in the north path to the hiking trail are great places to eat or just watch. There is one fun activity permitted here that my family loves to indulge in as evidenced by these photos.
They did have fun!
Tahkenitch Dunes Trail is 12.5 miles south of Florence. Tahkenitch is a Native American word meaning having arms running out like a crab. The family had quite the adventure here a few years ago. This is a 6.9 miles loop trail that crosses water and goes to the ocean and back. Three of us headed out on this trail not knowing much about it. We hit a brick wall of water that would have been impossible to cross to reach a high Dune that would have needed to be climbed. So we turned around but the trail was unknown and we took a different turn making finding our way difficult. Eventually we came to a trail map that was not in great condition. The youngest member of the group might have been the smartest because he figured out what the map was saying and sent us in the right direction. At that point this 9 year old was also able to interpret exactly where the trail was and where it went which wasn’t where we were trying to go. We’ll keep him!
Along with the Dunes Overlook and Tahkenitch hiking trails, there are a variety of trails to hike off of Highway 101. Hiking in sand is an adventure. Great fun exercise, it is also a bit strenuous hiking and climbing the Dunes. Personally I think snowshoes would make it easier. If you go hiking here be prepared for a bit harder walking than a normal dirt path would provide. Wear good, sturdy shoes and pick short trails to start with. The campgrounds north of Florence have a variety of short trails as well as the longer ones that go to the beach. I like to hike here on the short trails as you can hike one or many as time and energy permit.
A truly favorite place among the Dunes is just south of Florence a few miles. Directly across from the entrance to the Siltcoos Lake Trailhead take the road going west toward the ocean. At the end are a big Dune and a lot of ATVs getting ready to head up over the steep Dune to the ocean beach on the other side. But they must turn north when they crest over the top and head down to the beach. A left turn will take you to the protected nesting grounds of the endangered Snowy Plover. Be sure to read the information on the sign about these adorable little birds before hiking over the Dune. The nesting area is roped off but you can walk past and try to catch a glimpse of the nesting birds. You probably won’t but hope springs eternal. No ATVs allowed here!
Ah, but turn north and follow the ATVs and after a short walk flocks of Snowy Plover can be seen feeding in the shallow surf. They will move together as you approach and may take flight briefly not far off the sand. It is a thrilling sight to see.