Threemile Lake is located along the southern Oregon coast within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. There are three trails that lead to the lake – Threemile Lake North and South Trails as well as Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. You can view a map of the area and trail system here.
Tahkenitch Dunes-Threemile Lake North Trailhead provides access to both the north trail and Tahkenitch Dunes Trail – it splits after about a 1/2 mile. You can actually combine both trails to create a 6.5-mile loop. The trailhead is found within Tahkenitch Day Use, which is located about 35 miles north of Coos Bay, Oregon – 14 miles south of Florence – just off of highway 101. The parking lot is large and well maintained with potable water and restrooms available. Just make sure to bring your recreation pass!
Quick note: March 15 to September 15 is Snowy Plover nesting season, so there are restrictions on beach access. You can learn more about protecting Snowy Plovers here.
Threemile Lake, Oregon
My husband, Nat, and I decided to hike the north trail for our first backpacking trip of 2018. It’s a 3.3-mile easy-intermediate hike to Threemile Lake. We didn’t close the loop with Tahkenitch Dunes Trail – we just hiked in and out. We lucked out big time with the weather, considering it’s the Oregon coast and anything goes. It rained a bit on Saturday afternoon but cleared up by the evening.
We arrived at the trailhead on Saturday, March 10 around 10 am. The weather was cloudy with a bit of chill to the air – perfect for backpacking! :] We shouldered our packs and hit the trail.
The trail starts off at a slight incline and immediately weaves into a dense, lush forest. We could hear traffic noise from highway 101, but it eventually dissipated.
After about a 1/2 mile we reached a split in the trail. Left for Threemile Lake North Trail and right for Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. We continued left toward the lake.
A ways farther the forest opens up a bit and the trail transitions into sand for about 100 feet.
Before you know it, you’re weaving through the forest again on a narrow dirt path. The dense undergrowth rises around you and large trees hug the trail.
We passed by several wooden benches – perfect for a quick break and snack. One of them overlooks the forest with a tiny peek of the ocean.
The trail continues to gradually ascend through the varied coastal forest. We noticed more ferns in the undergrowth – eventually it thinned out to just ferns scattered among the trees.
I usually hike behind Nat since he’s the best at navigation – I’m getting better. ;] My job is spotting small critters, mushrooms, and other interesting things – like this newt! Nat captured this photo using my camera.
There are a few wooden bridges that cross over small bubbling creeks. We spotted skunk cabbages sprinkled around the water.
The trail begins to slowly descend as you approach the lake. Eventually you’ll meet up with a large wooden bridge where you’ll have your first view of Threemile Lake.
After this point the tree canopy opens up and the underbrush transitions into shrubby plants. This allowed for a great view of the ocean.
We powered up a steep incline before arriving at a flat area with no underbrush. This area is the last part of the dirt trail – it transitions into sand from here on out.
This stretch is relatively even, but the soft sand makes it strenuous to hike through.
You’ll eventually arrive at another split in the trail – left to hike down to Threemile Lake and right for beach access and Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. We opted left toward the lake. There’s a great view of the lake from here.
After turning left at the intersection, we clambered down a very steep sandy hill. The best technique for making it down this slope is to sink your heels into the sand and sort of bounce your way down.
Threemile Lake nestles in the dense surrounding forest and has plenty of shoreline to explore.
We set up camp on a flat sandy area tucked back away from the lake behind the tree line. It was the perfect spot – private with quick and easy access to the lake. There were no issues with our tent pegs coming out of the soft sand.
Once we set up camp and ate lunch, we decided to venture to the ocean. It’s about a 1/2 mile from Threemile Lake. We climbed back up the sandy hill to the split in the trail and headed straight across toward the beach. The dunes start to take over as you approach the ocean.
We reached another split – continue forward for the beach and right for Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. I noticed the sign spells Tahkenitch differently!
This is where you could create a loop by hiking back along Tahkenitch Dunes Trail. (We decided not to). Keep in mind that this trail is sandy, so it would be a tough trek back. Also be sure to follow the wooden poles – they mark the trail to keep hikers moving in the right direction. You can see a few in the distance in the photo below. They appear to be the same wooden poles we noticed on our hike along John Dellenback Dunes Trail.
The weather was perfect for strolling along the beach. The clouds thinned out and the sun peeked out just a bit.
After some time of exploring the coast, we made our way back to camp. Along the way we discovered these clusters of spiky mushrooms – so cool!
The Afternoon & Evening
It rained a few different times later in the afternoon, so we hung out in our tent until it passed. It was a welcomed opportunity to sit on something other than a pointy log. :]
The last rays of sunlight coupled with a break in the clouds made for a beautiful evening. We enjoyed the scenery while we cooked and ate dinner.
Our friends gifted us homemade freeze-dried meals for our wedding last August, and we just recently broke them out. I wish we had packed them on a trip sooner! They were delicious!
We hung out for a while longer before climbing into our sleeping bags and calling it a night.
The Next Morning
It was a chilly morning but nothing a hot cup of coffee couldn’t fix. The fog sat heavy on the trees and the lake was still.
We savored our coffee, cooked breakfast, and then explored the lake a bit more. The sun finally broke through the clouds – it felt so nice!
After a while we packed up our gear and then hiked back along Threemile Lake North Trail.
Threemile Lake is a great destination for a day hike or backpacking trip. There’s accessible water for filtering, quick beach access, and an easy-intermediate hike in via the north trail. We found the perfect nook to set up camp, but we didn’t happen to see any other possible campsites nearby. However, anywhere along the dunes would work great. The lake would still be nearby.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers extensive trail systems, campgrounds, and scenic forests and dunes to explore. Threemile Lake – with its 3-mile footprint – does not disappoint. It would make a perfect spring, summer, or fall excursion. Plus, Tahkenitch Day Use is right off of highway 101. I highly recommend checking it out and exploring this beautiful part of the Oregon coast.