Make Your Own Desert Storm
The Oregon Coast is home to an embarrassment of natural riches, but all that beachcombing and rain forest hiking can leave you with an overdose of mellow. Fortunately, the coast also includes an adrenaline-boosting antidote: screaming up, down, and around the largest coastal sand dunes in North America, on wheels that are anything but chill. Dirt bikes, quads, classic dune buggies, jeeps, monsterized pickups, and even some jacked-up, retrofitted VW Beetles freely roam the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The 32,000 windswept acres stretch for 40 miles and feature sandy peaks that rise up to 500 feet and are named like ski runs (Bull Run, Razorback). You'll want to tackle the big ones, but be sure to leave time to follow the sand trails through coastal scrub to the beach, where you can race friends for miles or cruise at your own pace. You won't be alone — this is the best dune-buggying on the continent — but the four-wheeling culture that sprouts here every summer is part of the fun. (Tip: Don't challenge a local to race. Your rental ride will be good, but no match for his.)
The recommended starting point is Spinreel Dune Buggy & ATV Rentals, 12 miles north of North Bend, at the edge of the dunes' largest motorized-access section. Here you can get everything you need and, after a brief safety orientation, roll right out. Even though Spinreel rents two- and four-seat buggies and runs group tours in bigger trucks, the best way to experience the full thrill of the dunes is on a rented 450cc four-wheeler, a bouncier open-air experience than the relatively stable buggies. "There's a real sense of freedom being out in the dunes, this big experience of Mother Nature, and you're in control, just riding around," says Spinreel owner Rich Burkholder. "We tell people to go at their own pace, but the adrenaline gets going and people get pumped up, especially when we get groups of guys. They like to challenge each other."