Theidea of an immense sand dune valley was completely at odds with anypreconceived notion I had about Oregon, but after exploring the JohnDellenback Dunes and Trail, I can safely say it is one of myfavorite spots in the state. 

Ithink the greatest appeal of the John Dellenback area is itsdiversity.  The varied coastal ecosystems, including a creek andforest with moisture-loving souls like the newts and gigantic slugscontrasts significantly with the expansive sand dunes just beyond theedge of the tree line.  In one direction, there is a coniferforest and rare red fescue community.  In the other, you’llfind empty dunes littered with some rainwater oases, tree islands andbeautiful wind carved patterns.  It’s a strange, butincredibly satisfying feeling to be standing on top of a vast sea ofsand dunes in the middle of a state known for its lush vegetation,mountains, waterfalls and ocean (most of which can be seen in thedistance).

This park offers two hiking trail options. For those looking to casually explore the park, there is a 1 mileloop which goes through some forest, past the red fescue community(one of the few significant areas of red fescue habitat left in thestate), and opens up into the dunes. From here, you can choose toeither explore the dunes, or follow the striped trail posts to thebeach.  The beach trail is about 5 miles round trip.

Althoughthere is no substantial elevation gain, as is to be expected, walkingthrough the soft sand and wind gusts can be tiring.  Bringplenty of water, and for longer excursions, snacks to help keep yourenergy levels up.  It’s easy to become disoriented in the sanddunes, in which case, it’s recommended that you climb to the top ofa dune to get your bearings again.  If you venture to the beach,it is strongly recommended that you beware the tide and sneakerwaves.

You can potentially see a wide variety of wildlifewithin the bounds of John Dellenback.  It’s important to notethat at times, parts of the park are closed to protect the nestingsites of snowy plover.  Also, there is a chance of seeing sealsalong the beach.  For their safety, and your safety, the lawprohibits touching, feeding or disturbing them.

Thetrailhead is found along US-101, about 15.8 miles north of Coos Baynear the Eel Creek Campground.  There is plenty of parking and atoilet, as well as a small parking fee.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Tripod
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RT Distance 1 Miles
Elevation Gain 100 Feet
Activities Photography, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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