Trail Review: Sand Lake Recreation Area

I have always heard about this mythical place called Sand Lake, but never really wanted to go there.  Maybe it’s the name.  A lake of sand doesn’t necessarily sound appealing.  But when I had an invite from a couple of Jeep friends to camp for the weekend, I took the chance.

Sand Lake is a recreation area just South of Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.  Getting there is a cinch and it is nice to pass Brown’s Camp should the desire for another type of wheeling strike you on your way home.

I headed toward “Derrick Road” where I would eventually meet my friends and set up camp.  The road ends at the camp area, a small sandy (surprise!) enclave of trees with primitive campsites, fire rings, and pit toilets.  The end of the camp area is basically the entrance to the recreation area.

My campsite at Sand Lake.

Once my friends arrived, we aired down and headed out to explore this expansive play area.

The wheeling is very different from the mud and boulders I am used to.  Jeeping in sand is actually a lot of fun, with a little bit of a learning curve. You quickly learn the dos and dont’s (i.e. sidehilling) as you get a feel for the deep, mushy surface.

David’s Jeep in the dunes.

The area itself is also very unique.  There are a few trails that snake along the outskirts of the huge open spaces, but they reconnect frequently.  Getting lost here would be very hard.

David tackling a dune.

The wide open expanses are peppered with sand dunes of various sizes.  While some are intimidating, they are pretty easy to climb and descend, just be careful of the ruts created by dirtbikes.  I learned that the hard way, launching my Jeep a little too far in the air.

One of the nicest surprises was the ability to drive right down to the beach, and on it.  The weather was absolutely amazing.

Frank in the Sun.

Sunny skies like this are somewhat of a rarity on the Pacific Coast, so we spent most of our first evening on the beach.  We enjoyed an amazing sunset followed by a bonfire on the beach.

David, my Jeep, and Mike all lined up.

After dark, we did some night wheeling, then made our way back to camp for dinner and a few brews.

Always be sure to grab a flag and attach it properly to your vehicle before heading out.  While we did not see much law enforcement this weekend, we have heard stories of steep tickets.  Also check the beer rules for where you want to camp.  For some reason, they do not allow beer in certain campsites.  The prohibition is back!

Sand Lake is a great place and I look forward to coming back again!

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