Tips for your trip to the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area

If you’ve ever wanted to drive an ATV on sand dunes, then Oregon should definitely be on your travel bucket list. It’s an amazing place to explore since it stretches over 64 kilometres (40 miles). The Oregon sand dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. You have around 7,000 acres of sand dunes to explore.

Oregon sand dunes travel guide
What to know about ATVing on the Oregon sand dunes

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While they aren’t the largest sand dunes, I love the variety of terrain that riding an ATV on the Oregon dunes offers. I have ridden ATVs in a lot of places, including Whistler. It is a whole different feeling to drive on the sand and beach versus dirt and rocks. It’s also more challenging.

The Oregon sand dunes have a varied landscape that is ideal for riding an ATV
At the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area you have sand, bushes, trees and the beach to drive on

One of the great things about the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is that no matter what kind of rider you are, there is terrain for you. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an advanced ATV rider, you will have fun.

I am a fairly novice driver and I had just as much fun as my friends who own their own ATVs and are very skilled and advanced drivers.

ATVs on the Oregon sand dunes
My friends and I driving up the side of one of the sand dunes in Oregon

What is an ATV?

Before we get into details about the Oregon dunes, let’s clarify what I mean when I say ATV. ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicle and it encompasses a wide variety of different vehicles. On the sand dunes, you will see people driving dune buggies, quads, side-by-sides and more.

My friends and I were all riding in RZRs, which is a brand of side-by-side. I refer to them as golf carts on steroids, lol! While some people will drive a quad, they are not nearly as safe because they are open and don’t have a roof. And trust me, having a roof on your ATV matters when you dump it or roll it – and yes, that happens.

A yellow dune buggy on a sand dune
A more traditional dune buggy

Normally, I prefer driving a quad to an RZR, but I was happy to be in the RZR on the dunes, especially when we tipped it on its side. Being in a side-by-side means that you have one driver and one passenger. This way you can take turns driving and enjoying the ride. Single-seat side-by-sides exist as well, but none of us were driving one of these.

RZR side-by-side ATV
The RZR side-by-side I drove on the Oregon dunes

Where are the Oregon dunes?

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area extends for 40 miles along the Oregon Coast. They run from Florence to Coos Bay. Bordering the Pacific Ocean, you can drive your ATV on the beach as well as the sand dunes. This is where you can really pick up speed and drive as fast as you like.

ATV on Oregon sand dune with the bridge in the background
One of the most picturesque spots to stop at the Oregon dunes

The photo above highlights the various terrain that Oregon provides for riding. Not only do you have massive sand dunes, but you can also drive on the beach and through the trees.

Do I need a special license to drive an ATV on the Oregon sand dunes?

Yes, you do. The state of Oregon requires all drivers to have an ATV Safety Card. If you possess a similar card from where you live, that may be accepted. Everyone else must complete the course prior to being allowed to drive on the dunes. The course will teach you about Oregon Laws, safe riding practices and environmental awareness for the area.

Oregon sand dunes

ATV Safety Card

Not to worry though, if you are renting an ATV, the rental company will put you through the Oregon safety course on-site when you pick up your rental. If you have your own ATV that you are bringing with you, then you’ll need to do the course online before you arrive. More information, including how to get your Oregon Safety Card is on the Oregon Parks and Recreation website.

What to wear when riding an ATV

Safety is important while driving an ATV and a helmet should always be worn. While some people choose to wear sunglasses with their helmets, I am a fan of goggles, especially when riding on sand.

The first day we went out riding in the RZR, I was a passenger and we were following behind our friends. The sand they kicked up behind them ended up in my eyes. Let’s just say that sunglasses didn’t work too well to keep my eyes safe.

Motocross helmet and goggles
Me wearing my full-face motocross helmet and goggles while riding in an ATV

And the second reason I will always wear goggles is that during one ride we whipped through a bunch of trees so fast that I got poked in the face with a branch. Thankfully, it missed my eyes, but that was it for me.

I won’t ride without goggles ever again. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your goggles for ATV’ing. The goggles I’m wearing above cost me a mere $23, way less than any of my sunglasses.

Man riding a quad up a sand dune
You can see why wearing goggles is a necessity as sand gets sprayed behind an ATV

Aside from a helmet and goggles, there is no special attire that is necessary for this sport. You simply want to wear comfortable clothing. I suggest closed-toe shoes, such as runners or boots, but that is a personal preference.

If you plan to do a lot of driving through the trees, you may want to wear something with sleeves to protect your arms from getting scratched.

Have you ever ridden an ATV on the Oregon dunes or anywhere else? If not, give it a go! There’s no need to be scared since you can drive as fast or as slow as you like. Drive slowly while you are getting used to the off-road vehicle, then you can speed it up as you gain confidence.