North America’s largest expanse of coastal sand dunes, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, stretches more than 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay. The magnificent wind-sculpted landscape, with some dunes towering more than 500 feet high, was formed through a geologic chain of events that started more than 12 million years ago. Over the centuries, waves, winds and tides have continued to shift the sands, creating a desert atmosphere you have to see to believe.

One unforgettable way to explore the full scope of this incredible landscape is with a guided dune buggy tour. At Sand Dunes Frontier near Florence, experienced drivers provide not only thrills and chills, but knowledgeable information about the dunes with tours to suit a variety of needs and interests.

For those seeking a shot of adrenaline, the exhilarating Sand Rail Tour (30 minutes) will have you whizzing across and over the top of 400-foot dunes — nature’s roller coaster with plenty of twists, turns and unexpected bumps. Tours can also be individually tailored to give you a one-of-a-kind experience.

“You go up and down the hills,” says co-owner Chuck Chapman. “But the ride is catered to what you want to do. If you want to go up and down the beach we can, or we can go up and down the hills. It’s totally up to you.”

For something a bit more serene, the Big Purple Buggie Tour (40-50 minutes) features a king-sized dune buggy that holds up to 24 people and covers about 7 to 10 miles of dunes. There’s time for photo ops and interpretive commentary.

Feeling adventurous? You can also rent a variety of ATVs by the hour at the adjacent Torex ATV and blaze your own trail.

Photo by Bill Grami