Oregon Dunes: A Rider’s Haven

Oregon_Dunes_National_Recreation_AreaEvery now and then you find a riding destination that you can’t help but fall madly in love with. Whether your preferences lean to trails in the woods, wide open flats of the desert or rolling razorbacks of sand dunes, there is an undeniable sense of excitement every time you prepare to re-visit your “happy place.”

For me, that place is along the Oregon coast where nature and a force greater than I have combined to create a majestic, nearly unbelievable stretch of sand dunes dotted with groves of regal evergreens and bordered by the chilly Pacific. With so many different riding areas along the Oregon Dune National Recreation area, there is enough terrain to keep you busy for weeks…years, even, as the area changes in a matter of hours as ocean winds re-shape dunes and create new whoops, tabletops and razorbacks to navigate.

We recently returned from a week along the Oregon coast where we spent much of our time riding from Horsfall to Spinreel along the dunes with undeniably perfect conditions and crowds that totaled seeing seven – you heard me seven – other vehicles the entire time we were there.

While there are famed dune riding destinations spotted across the Western U.S. ranging from the vast expanses of Glamis to the seemingly misplaced sandy mountains of Saint Anthony’s, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area offers a unique riding experience for a few reasons.

First and foremost is the sheer size. With tens of staging areas along the coast from North Bend to Winchester Bay, you can navigate the coast for mile after mile be it along the beach, or inland a bit on trails or over rolling dunes. And, unlike many dunes which are stark and barren, the unique geology of the Oregon Coast means that the dunes are spotted with evergreens, native grasses and other vegetation rarely ever seen on desert dunes.

What this makes for is a breathtaking space to ride – with the ocean to one side, forest to the other and thousands of acres of sand straight in front of you.

The length of the dune area also means that dunes often back right up to towns and residential areas. For a handful of lucky souls, this translates into having direct dune access from their home. (I’m on a mission to figure out how to live this life. If you know anyone selling an Oregon home with dune access, for the love of God…let me know!) For the rest of us, however, the proximity of lodging to riding creates for some really unique vacation opportunities.

On our last trip, we opted to forgo the toy hauler and instead rent a vacation home where our two year old and in-laws would be much more comfortable over the week. For the same price we would have paid to shack up at a hotel in town, we had a 4-bedroom home, on a quiet local lake in North Bend, OR. The kicker, however, is that you could drive your quad/ATV/UTV/sand rail down the private road 100 yards, make a right and be on the sand. It was heaven for a sand riding enthusiast…With a warm shower and comfortable bed.

With the roar of a sand rail occasionally cutting through the quiet coastal air, you were constantly aware that the dunes were calling your name while you enjoyed your morning coffee – a subtle reminder that you may have been “wasting” time on that coffee that could have been better spent with sand in your teeth.

Riding and unique riding vacation opportunities, like those presented by the Oregon Dunes, are few and far between in this great Nation. With annual events like Dunefest based in Oregon’s Winchester Bay, there are plenty of opportunities to mob the coastal sand with a crowd, but if I may, I recommend taking a week to explore this majestic area on an off-season week. Take the family, the girlfriend or a few of your best friends. Enjoy the wind in your face, sand up your nose…and then stop to appreciate that riding isn’t just about going fast, but taking in some of the most glorious views this world has to offer.