Photo courtesy of Jessica Beauchemin

The Taylor Dunes and Carter Dunes trails transport hikers from the bustling coastal highway, across forest, wetland and dune, to the quiet roar of the Pacific Ocean. What makes this hike so special is that it’s only accessible by foot, so it receives surprisingly few visitors.

The Oregon Dunes Natural Recreation Area stretches for 40 miles along the central and southern Oregon coast. This hike explores a hiker-only portion of the area that is free from the noise of OHVs. From the trailhead, the trail travels through a forest with occasional views of the dunes that separate you from the ocean. Once the trail leaves the forest, you’ll cross some grassy sand dunes and then enter the deflation plain.

Although beach grass looks quite at home in the Oregon sands, it is not native to the area. American and European beach grass help to form dunes that protect coastal homeowners from having sand swallow their beachfront property. But it also creates deflation plains, low-lying wetlands that destroy beach habitats for native birds and plants.

As you continue walking across the dunes, wetlands, and dense shrubs, the ocean gets closer and closer. At once the trail breaks free of the greenery and drops onto the broad, sandy beach.

You can make a semi-loop out of this hike by taking the Carter Dunes Trail all the way back to the Carter Lake Campground and walking back along the paved camp road to your car.

Beach access is restricted from March 15 through September 15 due to Snowy Plover nesting.