Backpacking Oregon Dunes National Rec. Area

Threemile Lake North Trail (1338)

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area Threemile Lake Trail SignIt started out rough. My dog bit my cousin at the trailhead within the first 10 minutes. As my husband and I reacted poorly and with confusion to the situation, I worried that the trip was going to be less than ideal.  

My cousin had just biked over 80 miles to meet us at the Threemile Lake North Trail. He’s a beast. I’ve been accused of being an uber-camper and intense, but it’s all relative. He is my version of intense. As soon as the wound was treated and bandaged, he went back to transferring his stuff from his saddle bags to his backpack. In no time he was ready to hit the trail. I was amazed as he set us at a swift pace. 

Click, grab, and drag on the map to see long./lat. of campsites, approximate trail location, and photos from the trail.

Our route took us from the Tahkenitch Dunes — Threemile Lake North Trailhead, down the Threemile Lake North Trail, to a campsite approximately at 2.5 miles. The US Forest Service lists this trail as intermediate to difficult. In my opinion, the segment of the trail we did would be more intermediate than difficult.

Oregon Coast Dunes Threemile Lake TrailI’m a slow hiker. With 35 lbs. on my back I tend to go about half of a normal walking pace. I’m not in the best shape either. As a work-at-home desk jockey, these trips are my meditation, rejuvenation, and punishment. The slow pace is my way of staying safe, reducing the chance of injury, and enjoying the nature around me despite the pain. I would have no such luck this evening. A fast pace was my destiny.

We set off around 7 PM, which meant that we needed to find a campsite before dark. Pitching a tent in the dark is not fun, and hiking after dark is not safe. These facts pushed us faster into the dunes. Just as my knee was barking for a long rest and threatening to give out, we rounded the top of a hill to discover the most beautiful camping spot I’ve ever seen. Seriously. The most beautiful spot. Alas, enjoying the view and our surroundings would have to wait for the morning. The dark of night began to settle in and setting up camp took priority.

After setting up camp and burning my Mom’s backpacking spaghetti, we all went to bed. As I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag, I prayed for the universe to turn this trip around. I was not disappointed.






Oregon Coast Dunes Campsite View

Being the first to wake, I made myself some coffee and sat down in the spot with the best view. The worry and pain of yesterday evening was gone. Listening to the white noise of the ocean waves and gazing at the amazing view I slipped into vacation mode. Moving slowly and without purpose, I napped and read an old backpacking book on our hill top perch. The only thing missing was a sugary drink with some fruit and an umbrella. Pulls of coconut rum from a water-bladder would have to suffice.

Sunset Oregon DunesThis is the reason I backpack, to find beautiful natural places that are untouched by concrete and the hum of electricity. These are places that my body and mind naturally reset to a more natural rhythm. The quiet noise of nature is so loud out here, you can’t ignore it’s influence over your mood and well-being.

On our second day, my legs were ready for more exploring. After breakfast, we set off to the beach. The short half-mile walk was hot and slow. From under my ridiculous, gas station straw hat, I felt protected from the burning sun. Unlike my husband who was already pink. I can never get that man to wear sunscreen.

Walking the sand dunes to the Oregon Coast beachesWe took turns visiting the beach for a bit. Scooda, being a dog and all, was not allowed on the beach. This untouched beautiful Oregon Coast beach is an established nesting area for Snowy Plovers. I had never seen a natural beach before. The drift wood is stacked up in abundance and the birds are too many to count. The only thing out of place was us. So in a respectful fashion, we retreated to the grassy dunes — behind the signs about conservation — for lunch and more napping.

Napping Snowy Plovers Oregon Sand DunesAs a species we are kind of funny that way. Napping is our go-to whenever there is time. It’s no wonder either. We are all connected, spinning, typing, and running toward the next task. Even out here in this beautiful space, I had to work at being relaxed. Boredom is easy for the “plugged in” here, but the vigilant adventurer knows to ignore the tug of “what’s next” and go back to sleep.

Our hike out the next day was slower than on the way in. With our cousin leading the charge, we hung back and took it slow. I’m never one to rush out of the woods and nature. I would linger forever here if that wasn’t such a horribly uncomfortable proposition. Unfortunately, the draw of a shower and clean clothing pulled us forward. Just as I resigned myself to the work-a-day life waiting for me, I remembered the block of cheese and beer tucked away, chilled, and waiting for me in the car.

All photos of Oregon Coast Dunes National Recreation Area used in this post are credited to Derek Perry. Thanks for being my husband and photographer.