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Oregon Dunes Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View from the overlook at the trailhead, Oregon Dunes (bobcat)
Tahkenitch Creek on the Oregon Dunes Loop (bobcat)
Boardwalk in the deflation zone, Oregon Dunes Loop (bobcat)
Sanderlings (Calidris alba) on the beach, Oregon Dunes (bobcat)
The loop to Tahkenitch Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS/Caltopo
  • Start point: Oregon Dunes TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Tahkenitch Creek Overlook
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Reverse lollipop loop
  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 195 feet
  • High Point: 145 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

A stretch of sand spreads before you from the Oregon Dunes Overlook, but it is not an unblemished whitish expanse. Tree islands dominated by Sitka spruce and hummocks bound together by European beachgrass form part of the topography. In the distance you’ll see ponds of water and then a continuous vegetation zone, the deflation plain, which supports thickets of huckleberry, willow, waxmyrtle, and spiraea as well as stunted shore pines and Sitka spruce. Next is the foredune area, colonized by the invasive beachgrass, and a snowy plover nesting zone in the spring. Beyond are a remote beach and the sparkling breakers of the Pacific Ocean. Dunes are made from sand, which represents the fine-ground remnant of rocks and gravel brought down from the mountains by rivers and creeks. The grains are tossed upon the shore by wave action and, when dry, can travel distances with the prevailing winds. It is a process of demolition and rebuilding. The Umpqua River, by far the largest and longest river in the area, has contributed most of the sand in this region, the largest set of sand dunes on the North American continent.

From the parking area, take the wooden steps that lead up to a viewing platform, which allows you a vista over dunes and tree islands to the ocean. From the platform, a trail heads into a dark Sitka spruce/Douglas-fir coppice and out to a steep sandy slope. Skitter down this dune towards a trail post which marks the junction with your return to the overlook. Go left here to the next post, and make a left to begin the larger loop. Hike along a sandy depression to pass between a tree island and the thickets of the deflation plain to your right. Scots broom and European beachgrass are major invasives in this area. Look for deer tracks in the sand, and skirt a couple of pools. Traverse the west slope of another tree island forested with spruce and shore pine. Approach two distinct tree islands in an area of seasonal willow ponds. Hike to the west of the islands, and then turn southwest in a wide sandy expanse, noting the small clumps of beach lupine. Keep left to get a picturesque view of Tahkenitch Creek at a looping meander.

Take the trail leading up into the shrubbery to emerge at the Tahkenitch Creek Overlook, taking in another view of the creek from higher up. Continue through a thicket of waxmyrtle, salal, silk tassel, and evergreen huckleberry, and then wind down on a moss-lined trail among shore pines and Sitka spruce. Take a boardwalk in the deflation plain, and pass through more stunted vegetation. Ignore a trail leading right, and cross the foredunes to descend to the beach at a hiker sign and emergency locator station #114.

Walk north on the beach. In the snowy plover nesting season (March 15th to September 15th), you’ll need to keep to the wet sand here, and dogs are forbidden. Sea Lion Cape is the prominence far to the north. Sanderlings, usually mixed with a few western sandpipers, forage about the swash line. To your right, you’ll see an area of foredune shaved of its invasive beachgrass to enhance snowy plover nesting habitat. At emergency locator #113, head up to the foredunes to find the return trail. Cross a marshy area in the deflation zone, and enter dense thickets. The trail here can be flooded during the wet season. Exit the thickets at a couple of seasonal pools, and use the trail posts to find your way back to the base of the overlook dune. Go left here up a forested slope, and switchback to the right (There’s a hidden picnic table to your left here). Pass more secluded picnic tables on a now paved trail along the crest of an old dune. Soon reach the restrooms at the Oregon Dunes Trailhead.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Oregon Dunes Loop Trail (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Siuslaw National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, viewing platform, interpretive signs
  • Trail in the dunes marked by posts; be aware of your bearings
  • Wet sand beach access only and no dogs: March 15th – September 15th in the snowy plover nesting area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Eugene, Oregon by Art Bernstein & Lynn Bernstein
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Oregon’s Central Coast Range Trails by Irene & Dick Lilja
  • Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail by Connie Soper
  • Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn by Jack D. Remington
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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