Oregon Dunes

Dunes overlook

  • Easy (to ocean)
  • 2.2 miles round trip
  • 150 feet elevation gain

  • Moderate (to Tahkenitch Creek)
  • 4.8-mile loop
  • 250 feet elevation gain

Visitors who simply photograph the view from the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area are missing the best scenery in this seafront Sahara. It’s just over a mile from the overlook’s picnic area to a remote, windswept beach. Even better is a 4.8-mile loop hike to beautiful Tahkenitch Creek, through dunes and tree islands.

Looking across the dunes, it’s easy to wonder why this part of the coast has so much sand in the first place. Rivers are pulverizing rocks all the time, and grains of the toughest minerals—especially transparent quartz—are carried to sea as sand. Oregon’s offshore sand beds are 70 to 180 feet thick. Storms and waves dredge some of this sand up to the beach each spring. Along most of the Coast, headlands and bluffs block the prevailing west winds from blowing the sand farther inland. But here, in the lowlands between Florence and Coos Bay, wave after wave of wind-driven dunes have marched ashore. Each onslaught buries forests before gradually petering out and sprouting forests of its own.

Man accidentally changed the dunes’ traditional cycle by introducing European beachgrass in 1910. Originally intended to stabilize sand near jetties and railroads, the stubborn grass spread along the beach, creating a 30-foot-tall foredune. Because this grassy dike stops sand from blowing off the beach, the inland dunes have been cut off from their supply of sand. The last dunes still marching eastward are expected to disappear within a century. Already they have left behind a broad deflation plain, a marshy area stripped by winds to wet sand. As brush and trees take root on the plain, a young, half-mile-wide forest is growing up between the beach and the dunes.

To find the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area, drive ...

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range.

Tahkenitch Creek at the ford