Oceano Dunes is around 3 hours drive north of Los Angeles CA - right next to Pismo Beach. The beautiful scenery along the way will make those 3 hours pass quickly.
Oceano Dunes is my favorite off-road adventure place. It has everything going for it. The weather is always perfect (or at least acceptable), it has lots of sand dunes, it is right on the beach and it is right next to a very beautiful beach city: Pismo Beach – with restaurants, shops, beaches and hotels.
You can use any 4-wheel-drive vehicle on the dunes, but you will have much more fun with an ATV or a Dirt Bike. You can rent your equipment at one of the rental shops right outside the park. See the list of shops below. They will bring it to you inside the SVRA area.
You can camp right in the park, but for people who would like to avoid roughing it, you can rent a motel or hotel room for the night in the city of Pismo Beach.
You can also make it a day trip from Anaheim. Because the highway to Oceano Dunes passes through major population areas, you are never far away from a restaurant, rest stop or lodging.
If you plan to camp then make reservations ahead of time. The available spots disappear quickly. Call 1-800-444-7275 or visit the California parks reservations website www.reserveamerica.com.
Tip: Although weather is almost always great for off-road fun, you still need to plan ahead. Under some rain and wind conditions, crossing the Arroyo Grande Creek into the SVRA might become treacherous, especially for RVs.
The dunes area available for off-road activity is around 1,500 acres. It used to be 3,500 but 2000 acres were set aside for preservation and restoration. The park is threatened with closure due to pressure from environmentalists. So please tread carefully around protected areas, read and follow the parks rules.
Tip: The dunes are always changing. When you first take your ATV on the sand, go slow and get familiar with the crests, dips and doughnuts.
The best way to enjoy the dunes is to start at the beginning of the sand highway between markers 4 and 5. The first time through, take the highway all the way to the border of the SVRA. This will give you an idea about the expanse of this park. On the way back you can start making excursions into other dunes and valleys.
The park has lots of diverse formations. You can find an immense dune with a pointy ridge – jumping the ridge is somewhat dangerous, but trying to balance along the rim is thrilling enough for me. You can find little dunes – with little jumps. You can find a very large depression shaped like a bowl in which you can ride your ATV around the rim. If you lose speed while you are trying to run the rim of this bowl, you will tumble all the way down – and laugh about it.
Tip: There is a reason for every safety rule at the park. Please follow the rules. Most importantly, make sure that your flag pole is standing straight and high enough to be noticed by other vehicles coming from behind a dune. And please wear a helmet!
A great interactive map of the park is available at http://www.ccwheelers.com/intermap.html - with photos at each landmark.North Park Entrance End of Grand Avenue Grover Beach CA South Park Entrance End of Pier Avenue Oceano CA
ATV Rentals at Oceano Dunes
BJ's ATV Rentals
197 Grand Avenue
Grover Beach, CA 93433
Steve's ATV - OCEANO DUNES
332 Pier Ave.
Oceano, CA 93445
Books about adventures in California:
- Anza-borrego Desert Region: A Guide to State Park & Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert
- Fodor's Southern California 2009: with Central Coast, Yosemite, Los Angeles, and San Diego (Fodor's Gold Guides)
- Southern California SUV Trails: A Rough-road Guide to Thirty-two Interesting Four-wheeling
Excursions in the Western Mojave Desert
- Where to Go Really 4 Wheeling in California