Nat and I decided to conquer John Dellenback Dunes Trail, located about 16 miles north of Coos Bay. The trail is in the southern region of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and cuts across all the way to the ocean. You can read more about the trail here and find a map here.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located on the Oregon coast from Coos River in North Bend all the way to Siuslaw River in Florence. The Oregon Dunes constitutes about 31,500 acres of the Siuslaw National Forest.
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.
John Dellenback Dunes Trail
We packed our backpacks on November 12, 2017 and prepared for rain, but hoped we would miss it if we hiked early enough. The trailhead is right off of Highway 101. There’s a paved parking lot with quick and easy access to the trailhead. You start off by crossing a long wooden bridge before winding through a lightly forested area.
After a while the trail transitions from gravel to sand – lots and lots of sand! The trail is sandy from here on out.
The view opens up to sandy, shrubby terrain.
Eventually the trail weaves back into a forested area.
There are shrubby, leafy plants and beautiful trees.
Once you exit the forested area, you’ll hike a steep incline before reaching the magnificent, never-ending rolling dunes. Behold.
There’s sand in every direction for miles – it made me feel so small! Occasionally you’ll see a patch of trees, shrubs, or even a small pond, but sand definitely dominates the landscape.
The trail is undefined at this point – no railing, no path, and almost no footprints to follow. With the wind and constant movement of the sand, it would be impossible to maintain any kind of trail. Instead, crews set up large wooden markers every couple hundred feet or so. This allows hikers to spot the markers in the distance and know which direction to continue.
After trekking a ways through the sand following the markers, you’ll meet up with a large forested area. The trail continues into the forest – the path is visible and marked with a small sign.
Note that when Nat and I hiked the John Dellenback Dunes Trail, it was the middle of November. So, we encountered a heavily waterlogged trail within the forest. At first we tried to find a way around the water, but we just kept finding ourselves running into more water or impassable brush. Just as we considered turning around, Nat jokingly suggested that we take our shoes and socks off and keep going. We debated this option for a moment, and then decided to go for it. We were determined to make it to the ocean!
The forest becomes greener and more lush the farther you hike – and marshy, too. Thank goodness for the long boardwalk that extends over this area! It’s sturdy and looks well maintained.
We had a lot of fun walking through this marsh area. The foliage hangs low and brushes up against you. It felt like a jungle adventure!
We eventually made it to the ocean and enjoyed a quick snack on the beach. At this time we noticed dark clouds in the distance. Not too long after we felt a few light rain drops. I told Nat to pack up and get ready to head back. I had a sinking feeling that we weren’t going to make it back before the rain hit.
As you may have guessed, we definitely did not make it back to the car without getting drenched. Just as we exited the forest path and made it to the sand, the rain came down hard. Hence the lack of any other photos! :]
John Dellenback Dunes Trail makes for a scenic day hike and offers beautiful, varied landscapes. Hiking from the trailhead to the sand is easy-moderate, but trekking through the sand for several miles is more difficult. The view of the rolling dunes is magnificent in itself. If you want to venture all the way to the ocean, though, just be sure to follow the wooden poles and bring water socks…just in case.