The idea of an immense sand dune valley was completely at odds with any preconceived notion I had about Oregon, but after exploring the John Dellenback Dunes and Trail, I can safely say it is one of my favorite spots in the state. 

I think the greatest appeal of the John Dellenback area is its diversity.  The varied coastal ecosystems, including a creek and forest with moisture-loving souls like the newts and gigantic slugs contrasts significantly with the expansive sand dunes just beyond the edge 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 and beautiful wind carved patterns.  It’s a strange, but incredibly satisfying feeling to be standing on top of a vast sea of sand dunes in the middle of a state known for its lush vegetation, mountains, waterfalls and ocean (most of which can be seen in the distance).

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

Although there is no substantial elevation gain, as is to be expected, walking through the soft sand and wind gusts can be tiring.  Bring plenty of water, and for longer excursions, snacks to help keep your energy levels up.  It’s easy to become disoriented in the sand dunes, in which case, it’s recommended that you climb to the top of a dune to get your bearings again.  If you venture to the beach, it is strongly recommended that you beware the tide and sneaker waves.

You can potentially see a wide variety of wildlife within the bounds of John Dellenback.  It’s important to note that at times, parts of the park are closed to protect the nesting sites of snowy plover.  Also, there is a chance of seeing seals along the beach.  For their safety, and your safety, the law prohibits touching, feeding or disturbing them.

The trailhead is found along US-101, about 15.8 miles north of Coos Bay near the Eel Creek Campground.  There is plenty of parking and a toilet, 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
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildlife

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