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Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area

This 3,600-acre park lies within the 15,000-acre Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes complex, California's largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco. Visitors can swim, surf fish, hike, and camp. Part of it--1,500 acres--is also an off-road vehicle playground. The OHV area includes 5.5 miles of beach and some of the high dunes. This is the only state park unit that allows vehicles on the beach. At low tide, some wheelchair riders might be able to roll on the beach's hard-packed sand, and beach wheelchairs are available.

Oceano Dunes is also a wonderful place to look for birds, especially at Oso Flaco Lake. Many kinds of shorebirds can be seen on the beach, while other small birds, such as Audubon warblers, long-billed marsh wrens, and American kestrels, are often sighted among the dunes. Between March 1 and September 31, mesh fencing is erected to protect the endangered California least tern and the threatened snowy plover. A paved picnic area dotted with palm trees has tables overlooking the beach.

State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

Dune Boardwalk

Trailhead: Grover Beach parking lot off Grand Avenue

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Terrain: Hard

The 25-foot approach to the boardwalk is firmly packed dirt that may become muddy in wet weather. The dirt trail to the eucalyptus grove is uneven and sandy in places, but was easy to navigate in my motorized wheelchair.

Obstacles: On the return trip, manual wheelchair riders may have trouble negotiating the 1-1/2 inch transition from the hard-packed dirt path back onto the boardwalk.


Near the paved picnic area off the Grover Beach parking lot, a 25-foot boardwalk has a viewing platform that overlooks the beach. A longer trail (nearly one mile), mostly boardwalk, begins near the restroom and travels through the dunes to Pismo State Beach North Campground. Along this route are several hilly sections with viewing platforms overlooking the dunes and ocean. Iceplant has invaded some of the dunes, but many native plants grow here too. A golf course and the town of Oceano are visible to the east for part of the route.

After about three-quarters of a mile you come to an accessible path to the Pismo State Beach North Beach campground; just beyond is a bridge leading to a eucalyptus grove where thousands of monarch butterflies roost from November through February (Pismo Beach Monarch Grove). This path is sandy and uneven in places; I had no problems in a motorized wheelchair, but it may be challenging to some in manual wheelchairs. Picnic tables on a moderately firm surface are scattered throughout the butterfly grove. Retrace your steps to the main trail and continue several hundred feet, skirting the campground. The trail here is sheltered bushes that screen it from a nearby road, and birds are plentiful. Even though this section of trail has a significant crown, the level area atop it is approximately three feet wide. You can turn around at the main entrance, where the trail ends. I didn't thoroughly explore the campground, but other trails within it were sandy, so you probably have to return the way you came.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

Available at the Grand Avenue and Pier Avenue beach entrance stations, or contact the Oceano Dunes Ranger Station, (805) 473-7220

Accessible Parking: Yes

At foot of Grand Avenue and foot of Pier Avenue. Free parking at Grover Beach lot, just before the Grand Avenue park entrance.

Accessible Restroom: Limited Accessibility

Left side of the park's entrance station at the foot of Grand Avenue

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Adjacent to picnic tables in Grover Beach parking lot

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

Just inside the Grover Beach parking lot
Heading south on boardwalk
Heading south on boardwalk (Jean Morrison)

Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • camping
  • hiking
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Phone: (805) 473-7223
Hours: 6 am-11 pm
Fees: Parking
Dogs: On leash
Allowed on beach, but must be leashed
Public Transportation: SLO Regional Transit 
Useful Links: SLO State Parks
Dunes map
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, October 7, 2007
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing