July 17, 2021 — Nestled in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area near Westlake is the Taylor Dunes Trailhead, offering a 2.6 mile out-and-back trail through the forest, over the dunes and out to the beach.
To access the trailhead from Florence, people can head south on Highway 101 over the bridge toward Dunes City. About 7.5 miles down the highway, turn right at the sign for Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Carter Lake Campground, then make your first left to enter the parking lot for the day use fee area.
The fee is $5 per day to park, or you can use a valid annual recreation pass. Visitors can either enclose the cash fee in the provided envelopes and display the stub on their dashboard, or purchase day passes at Siltcoos Fee Station (.7 miles south), Carter Lake Campground (.5 miles west on the entry road) or the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area (2 miles south).
There is a restroom located in the parking lot, as well as various notices with visitor information and a map of the area. Dogs are allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash, however it should be noted that dogs are not allowed on the beach at the end of the trail.
Additionally, motorized and non-motorized vehicles as well as flying apparatuses and activity in the dry sand is prohibited in order to protect the nesting habitat of the threatened western snowy plover. Shorebirds will be nesting in the area from March 15 through Sept. 15, so visitors should stay on wet sand upon reaching the beach.
To access the trailhead, walk from the parking lot entrance back across the entry road and onto the trail.
The trail begins on a partially paved path lined on both sides with lush foliage from the Siuslaw National Forest. Wild mushrooms can be found growing along the sides of the trail, but it is important to use caution when foraging, as some fungi are deadly and various species of mushrooms can be easily confused.
As the path curves slightly upward, the lake peeks through the trees on the left. The trail then winds around to a wooden bridge which leads you over the water, and the lake can be seen from both sides of the bridge.
The trail continues to wind up and around through the forest, and about .4 miles in, there is a bench overlooking the lake with a beautiful vista, and the ocean can be heard in the distance. Just after the .5-mile mark, there is a crest that looks out all the way to the ocean, and the path forks to the right for beach access.
Visitors can stop and take pictures from this viewpoint and rest at the provided bench before continuing the trail through the dunes to the beach.
From here, the trail moves from easy to moderate; this portion of the trail is not covered overhead by the forest, so it is considerably hotter in the summer than the first .5 miles, and the path transitions from partially paved to soft sand dunes with a slight incline.
Throughout the sand dunes, there are reeds and grasses, various trees and wildflowers along the sides of the path. At roughly one mile in, the right side of the path becomes partially covered overhead by the trees with sand dunes continuing on the left side of the trail. You will then reach a huge tree with a fork in the path and a sign that directs you to either Carter Lake Campground to the left or the remainder of the Taylor Dunes Trail to the right. Take the right fork to continue and access the beach.
The trail becomes more covered by the forest at this point, and as the path winds around, certain portions surround hikers in a verdant tunnel of trees. The trail is also partially paved again through this final area leading to the beach.
Coming out of the trees, visitors will find themselves upon the dunes once more, and as you walk up the final crest for the last .2 miles out, you finally reach the beach and a marker for Carter Lake Trail.
On the beach, you will find the shells of scallops, clams and crabs as well as sand dollars. Driftwood lines the shore, but visitors should note that people should never stand on driftwood logs, as they can roll unpredictably, causing injury.
After taking in the beach, the same path can be followed back to reach the start of the trail. The total elevation gain is 144 feet, and the distance roundtrip is 2.6 miles.
The trail is somewhat of a hidden gem – only two other people were on the trail during peak hiking hours in the middle of the day on Fourth of July weekend.
It should also be noted that a black bear sighting was reported in the area on June 27. If you encounter a bear, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recommend you:
Despite the potential dangers, this trail unites the best of the coastal forest with the stunning vista of the dunes and ocean.
For more information about Taylor Dunes Trail, visit www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/siuslaw/recreation/recarea/?recid=42551.