Hiking the John Dellenback Dunes Trail

Category: Exploring Nature Item

Back to Oregon Dunes

GPS Coordinates: 43.972291, -124.005192

Distance: 6 miles (9.6 km) cumulatively for the full trail.

Difficulty: Easy to difficult.

Elevation Gain: Most of this trail offers little elevation gain outside of the dune sea.

Seasons: Year-round. Some restrictions may apply during Western Snowy Plover nesting season.

The John Dellenback Dunes Trail offers a picturesque look at a variety of coastal ecosystems, including a conifer forest, riparian areas and the dune sea. Highlights of the hike include the tranquil Eel Creek, “tree islands,” and a rare red fescue plant community which is dominated by a native grass species. This particular area of the trail represents how the Oregon coastal dunes would’ve appeared prior to the introduction of invasive species such as European Beach Grass in the early twentieth century. Ninety-five percent of red fescue habitat is now gone in Oregon, so this part of the trail is particularly valuable to see and understand.

Hikers can explore either the full trail or a 1 mile (1.6 km) interpretive loop. If you decide on the latter, make sure to pick up a trail brochure in the parking lot which corresponds to numbered posts located along the route.

The full trail crosses an expansive dune field where thick sand and high winds may be challenging for some. Once among the dunes, the lack of landmarks may cause hikers to lose their way. Climbing to the top of a dune will help you reorient your position.

The dunes are the nesting area of the threatened Western Snowy Plover. Between March 15 and September 15 there may be prohibitions on entering certain areas to help protect these birds. Trailside signs will provide additional information. It is also common for Harbor Seal pups to be found sunning themselves on the beach in this area. State and federal law prohibits touching, feeding or disturbing these animals under any circumstances.

The John Dellenback trailhead is located to the west of Highway 101 and has ample parking and restrooms. Use of this area requires a $5.00 day permit or a valid recreation pass such as the Pacific Coast Passport. The Eel Creek campground is adjacent to this trail.

Related Features: Anatomy of a Dune Habitat | A Sandy Sanctuary | Youth Activities: Hiking



Hiking A Dune Sea (And Other Amazing Ecosystems)

Wending its way through a lush coastal forest, along the banks of a tranquil stream and finally through a massive dune sea, the John Dellenback trail is a great hike which encompasses multiple ecosystems.