Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Day Use

Are you looking for something different along Oregon’s coast? If so, Oregon Dunes is for you!

The dunes span 40 miles and rise up to 500 fee above the Pacific Ocean. Among the dunes, you can find everything from rivers to rainforests.

We arrived at the dunes from the East via Reedsport and turned northbound. Oregon Dunes’ day use area is north of Gardinar and south of Dunes City.

5 Tips For Enjoying Oregon Dunes Day Use Area

1. Plan Time to Hike.

The day use area consists of a parking lot and a viewing platform. Once you see the view, it may be hard to resists the hike.

A marked trail leading to the ocean is easily to access from the parking lot. There are two main hiking options. One is a 5 mile long loop and the other is a 2 mile, out and back trail to the coast.

We started our hike around noon, hadn’t eaten lunch yet, didn’t pack water or snacks and opted for the shorter of the two trails. For those of you that have hiked in dunes before, there is a constant false sense of distance. Even with knowing that ahead of time, we were all surprised when we rounded a corner and still had not made it to the coast. It is longer than it seems but the trail is clearly marked and well traveled.

Wooden posts mark the trail through the dunes. The trail through the forested sections is obvious. Even on a hot July day, the beach was nearly empty when we arrived. I can’t imagine it ever gets much more crowded. If you are hoping to avoid crowds and get some exercise, this is the place!

View from Oregon Dunes Day Use area hike.

2. Wear Shoes.

The sand can be hot! When you are not walking on hot sand, you may be walking on hard packed forest trails. Don’t leave your shoes at the car and chose your footwear carefully!

Oregon Dunes trail through the forest is easy to follow and diverse!

3. Bring Water and Snacks For An Afternoon At Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.

This seems obvious but we are famous for being underprepared or overprepared. I can’t decide if we are over confident, lazy, or impulsive but it is not unusual for us to check out a hike and end up 2 hours down the trail without snacks.

We started this hike by walking to the viewing platform, then onto the dune, then down the hill, and so on. I think you get the idea! Hiking on the dunes and into the forest was just too much fun and we didn’t want to stop once we started.

Oregon Dunes day use hike

4. Be Prepared For Signs Giving Instructions In Case Of An Earthquake and Tsunami.

For those of you that have spent much time on the Oregon coast, this shouldn’t be too surprising. I typically read the sign and keep walking. By the time I hit the ocean on this hike, I don’t think I could have evacuated very quickly in the event of a tsunami. We all weigh our risk, I guess.

5. Dress For Exposure To The Elements.

In addition to shoes, I would recommend the following items:


Sun screen


Beach towel

Bathing Suit

Wind breaker

Oregon Dunes

Have Fun At Oregon Dunes!

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50 thoughts on “Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Day Use

  1. I can see why it might be hard to resist a hike if we visited the Oregon Dunes. Great that there are two paths to take. And that the paths are well marked. Certainly looks like a spot to get away from the crowds on other beaches. One for us to remember the next time we make it to Oregon.


  2. You’ve provided some great advice. When I think of sand dunes I think of soft sand between my toes. I wouldn’t necessarily think to bring shoes. Glad you brought up this point so I dont burn my little toesies on the hot sand or on some of the rougher patches!


  3. Ok I already love just about everything about Oregon and am dying to get back there. The coast is so gorgeous and this hike looks like the perfect way to see it up close. I’m definitely pinning this one for later!


  4. I am soo glad you mentioned actual shoes, I have had first hand experience with hot sand and it is NOT fun. The dune would be a spectacular place to enjoy an Oregon Sunset. Even though we are not really hikers, I am sure we would enjoy the views! We will add this to our Oregon to-visit list 🙂


    1. Oregon Dunes looks quite inviting. I haven’t done any dune hiking. But your tips are super helpful. Hat, sunglasses, snacks, good shoes are so important. I do agree that the sense of distance is lost in deserts. Lovely post.


  5. This looks like such an amazing activity to do. Being someone who prefers the outdoors rather than the cities, this is just up my alley. I would love to do do some hiking for sure, and i particularly loved your tip about choosing the footwear properly, as that is something that often gets overlooked, when theres sand.


  6. Sounds like a lot of fun. I was lucky to have visited some dunes as a kid and the one thing I loved about them was sitting on top of a peak and sliding down. Good tips on the clothing and accessories, that sand can get in almost everywhere. And I would say, go bare feet rather than with shoes.


  7. I have not visited this part of the Country but thanks to a post like this I will add it to my list for when visiting next .The Oregon’s coast with the dunes spaning 40 miles along the Pacific Ocean is just taken me and I can’t wait to experience it myself. its so diverse and so much to offer . A hike in the forest would be great as well. Thanks for sharing something very interesting and picturesque. Its all about the outdoors – keep it up and thanks


  8. I definitely learned about hot sand the hard way last summer, haha. I had no idea Oregon had sand dunes too, but I’m gonna have to add this place as part of our future planned PNW road trip! *-*


  9. Great tips! Yes, I am looking for something different and this is just perfect. Thank you for the heads up regarding earthquakes and tsunami. Will definitely keep that in mind.


  10. you’re 100% right that you should dress in layers and be prepared for cooler or windier weather than you expect. Also, make sure to wear sunglasses even if it’s overcast: they help keep blowing sand out of your eyes!


  11. I wouldn’t have thought about earthquakes and tsunamis in this region, so it was a good reminder to read those signs. It’s also surprising how hot sand can get and wearing shoes is a must for those hot days for sure.


  12. I was not aware of this area when I was on a road trip along the Oregon coast several years ago. The entire coast is magnificent and hiking the dunes (and into the forest) sounds great.


  13. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area has a strange and wild beauty. The beauty of the desert. These are some really sensible and practical tips to visit and really make the most of the experience. Oregon brought to mind the series, Wild Wild Country, that we recently watched.


  14. Great tips, especially bringing snacks whenever you hike! I made the mistake of not bringing some on a different hike thinking it won’t take long. Haha never again! Lol! And wow, didn’t realize there could be tsunamis Oregon! Definitely must watch out for that!


  15. The dunes look beautiful! Great tip on the shoes though…I hate walking on hot sand! It looks like a beautiful hike although the tsunami signs sound a little scary! Thanks for the great guide!


  16. This looks such a fun place to hike! Although in some ways, I think I’d like it even better in the shoulder season…that sand must feel super hot in the summertime! Gorgeous trail though, thank you for sharing. 🙂


  17. I’ve never really hiked on sand before but with the promise of the coast and lovely views, I’m sure I’d be up for it! The views and the variety from forests & rivers to the ocean sound amazing.


  18. I just drove through the Oregon Dunes area a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Such a cool place. These are great tips!


  19. I’ve only ever driven through Oregon, but I don’t live too far. So someday it’s probably a good idea to take the kids and actually visit!


  20. I can agree with that false sense of distance when it comes to hiking dunes! It’s as though, so matter how far you walk, you feel like you’re not really getting any closer. And walking through sand can be hard slog. Definitely need to talk lots of water, even if you think it’s short and you won’t need it. Good tip on the shoes as well. Sand is way too hot in the sunshine!


  21. Sand dunes intrigued us lately. This one look so cool. We haven’t been to Oregon yet, so, yes, I will put this in our Oregon itinerary. But I will bring snacks and drinks with us.


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