The Oregon sand dunes are like no other. I'm not talking about the sand traps at your local golf course, I'm talking about actual Sahara desert sized sand dunes, and there are miles of them, some are as high as 500 feet above sea level. They're a truly impressive Oregon natural wonder. If you've yet to experience the Oregon dunes, you should put it on your to do list.
At a little over 32,000 acres, this is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. They're part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area which stretches from the coastal town of Florence, South to the town of North Bend.
The area includes much more to see than just sand.
A number of wetland marshes support an abundance of wildlife and native plants and trees including small groves of Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, hemlock and red cedar. There are dozens of hiking trails that allow you to experience this area close up.
If you're traveling the Oregon Coast Highway, here's a suggestion
Head toward the town of Florence and turn (or continue) South for three miles to a place called Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park. The locals call it “Honeyman”, it's easier.
At 500 acres, it's one of the largest state parks along the Oregon coast. It was built in the late 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps and it's a great place to experience the dunes on a more up close and personal level. I'm talking about the taking off your shoes and sinking your bare feet deep into the soft sand and climbing to the top of a giant sand dune type of level.
Off-road vehicles (dune buggies) are restricted in this area so it's a great place for kids, and adults, to play and have fun.
When my brothers and I were younger, our parents took us to Honeyman on a regular basis. We never grew tired of it. My wife and I carried on the tradition with our own kids and they loved it as well.
You can get your vehicle very close to the dunes from here, in fact the sand begins at the parking lot, but the actual dunes are down a short trail about fifty yards or so.
At several hundred feet high, the closer you get to the main dune, here at the park, the more you'll realize what a massive hill of sand it really is. The sand is soft, and bare feet easily sink in to your ankles as you struggle to the top of this steep hill. Once you reach the crest, you have a decision to make. You can choose to explore the vast area of sand in front of you (it really does look like the Sahara) or you can run, tumble and slide your way back down to the bottom. It's all great fun. I swear there were many times it took a week or more to get all the sand out of my hair after coming home from Honeyman.
On the other hand, if you stay on top of the dune for awhile you can wander around and explore the area. By no means is it flat up there. As kids, my brothers and I had the best time wandering around and pretending we were lost in the Arabian desert, rolling down one hill after another pretending we were dying of thirst.
Once we decided to hike all the way to the ocean. We didn't realize it was two miles away. It appeared to be a lot closer, plus we didn't bring water.
Water? We were kids, water was something an adult would think of.
It took us a couple of hours, but we made it. By the time we got back, we really were dying for a drink of cool water. Heck, I was thirsty enough to drink muddy water...and from a dirty glass. Fortunately I didn't have to prove it.
So keep in mind, if you decide to give this hike a try, be sure you have ample water with you. (I'm an adult now, I think about these things.) The hot sun and wind can dry you out in a hurry.
So if you ever find yourself traveling along the Oregon coast. Take in this natural wonder. Explore it like those who came before us. And like those explorers who first discovered the dunes, I guarantee, it will be an adventure worth talking about.