This post was brought to you by Vivobarefoot, the makers of amphibious shoes that will take you from water to land, and across the Oregon Dunes, without weighing down your pack.
The Northwest is famous for its carved coastlines, from the sea stacks jutting out of the Pacific to the rain forested mountains matted with ferns. If you’ve ever driven up and down the coastal highway in Oregon, however, you might have noticed an almost fifty-mile span where the Oregon coast takes on an entirely different appearance.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is unlike most other places in America. It’s one of the largest temperate sand dunes in the world, with some peaks reaching a staggering 500 feet!
The Oregon Dunes formed thousands of years ago as the sandstone in the Cascade Range slowly eroded and was washed to shore by rivers, creeks, and streams. Rather than slipping out to sea, or mounding up against the rocky bluffs that rim most Oregon beaches, the massive dunes formed where gaps in the headlands let the sand accumulate.
Today this 31,500-acre span of the Siuslaw National Forest makes for a stunning landscape filled with unique adventures.
7 Oregon Dunes Campgrounds You Must Visit
As The Dyrt Ranger Kayla C. notes, no matter where you stay in the Oregon Dunes you are likely to encounter three things: “Fun camping, loud people, and dirt bikes!”
That said, there’s plenty else to do for when you aren’t zooming around on two or four wheels. The area is also a habitat for snowy plovers, home to lakes and rivers full of fish, and a place to see the full gamut of Oregon scenery.
Sand can be fun in so many ways, but some people have mixed feelings about camping on it. For one, it gets everywhere. For another, it can get chilly at night without a sleeping pad or air mattress under your bedding. It can also be surprisingly hard.
Tyee Campground affords a chance to stay close to the dunes themselves, but set back from the beach near the Siltcoos River, where there is significantly less sand.
All the usual drive-in camping amenities are there, with vault toilets, fresh water, and fire rings. This isn’t a good spot for RVs, but do bring your boat as there is a ramp on site. The Dyrt Ranger Tim W. notes, “We had a blast playing in the water here!”
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Another spot where you can blend water activities and off-roading in the sands, Lagoon Campground offers relief from some of the more crowded campgrounds closer to the ocean. Just don’t forget your bug spray— and don’t expect to rinse off, either. There are bathrooms and flush toilets but no showers. Still, it comes highly rated.
The Dyrt Ranger TJ B. writes, “This campground is located right on a lagoon, hence the name, with close beach and dune access. It also has some hiking and kayaking opportunities. Overall a decent sized grounds with some nice walk-up only sites, as well as tons of sites to reserve.”
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Also located just off the Siltcoos River, South Jetty can only be reached by 4×4. This is dispersed camping, so you’ll need to ride in your own water and supplies, as well as a groover. There are two group sites that can accommodate up to 40 people, so if you’ve got a large sand squad, you’re in luck.
Once you’re settled in, enjoy bird and whale watching, the endless thrum of the waves, and plenty of beach strolls, as well as access to the nearby OHV staging area. The Dyrt Ranger Nicole R. found, however, “the best part about this beach for camping is the clean sandy beach that stretches far and wide with tons of homemade drift wood shelters.”
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Beach camping at it’s finest, we’ll let The Dyrt Ranger Dawnielle C. do all the talking.
She raved about Waxmyrtle: “This campsite is primarily a place where people stay who are riding the dunes, so if you are looking for a cool place to stay and take your dune buggy out — you’ve found it!
There were all sorts of cool adventure vehicles everywhere on site, and everything was pretty well put together so you were close to your neighbors, but not too close. In our campsite we were able to park our Jeep right outside the site, pitch 2 tents, have a fire pit and a picnic table with room to spare.”
Throw in the on-site bathrooms and plentiful firewood and you’ve got a great campground!
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Many of the campsites in this area are better suited for car, tent, and hammock camping than for RVs and campers. That said, RV’ers are in luck at Winchester Bay, just across the Umpqua River from Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
The Dyrt Ranger April K. liked how close it is to the fishing village of the same name, and explained that “if you choose a water view location on the front, you will love it. Short walk to pizza, fish, and shops. Lots of grassy areas for dogs. Beautiful area and professional staff.”
There are even cottages to rent if you don’t have an adventure rig of your own. Bring a pair of amphibious shoes so you can get the most out of all the different landscapes nearby without over packing.
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Ideal for both RV’ers and ATV’ers, Half Moon Bay isn’t quite as bucolic as the name sounds. The Dyrt Ranger Melissa L. is up front about it: “If you want quiet/serenity, this ISN’T the place for you. The campground has easy access to the national park ATV riding area, and you can ride for miles here, with a LOT of different terrain.”
When you get back from bombing around the Oregon Dunes, you can try your luck at catching crabs for dinner and going for a dip before enjoying a growler or some can styles from Defeat River Brewery. Half Moon Bay, because it’s run by the county, is a rare campground where you can enjoy alcohol above board.
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Just south of Ziolkouski Beach Park is another OHV staging area, and this campground has prime access. Bring your ear plugs for sure, because you are right on top of the ATV trails.
Jessica C. on The Dyrt notes, “We enjoyed our visit here, other than the fact that it was so loud all the time. It makes sense due to the fact that’s it’s an off-road vehicles paradise! We just hadn’t considered the volume.Cool place though. Sand dunes right on the beach. As far as the eye can see! Dogs are welcome here which is why we chose this spot. If we bring dirt bikes next time we will definitely stay here again!”
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