Douglas County has the largest square mile count of all of Oregon’s coastal counties, yet at roughly 18 linear miles it has the least amount of shoreline. Being at the center of the 40 miles of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, much of Douglas County’s sand is playground to off-road vehicles. Don’t let that dissuade you though, the county beaches are reserved for pedestrians, and Umpqua South Jetty Beach in Winchester Bay is a great choice for beach walking.

Starting at the south jetty of the Umpqua River, several miles of sandy coast spread south. At the north end of this expanse, Umpqua South Jetty Beach can be reached via two parking lots about a mile apart. Unlike many Oregon beaches, no fore dune or cliff, band of rocks or aged volcanic flow inhibits access to this beach – only a sand-strewn path with a small slope.

Lot 1 beach

125 Steps Wheels:

I always search for areas with reasonable access to the beach – not too many steps and not overly steep. The beach near the Umpqua South Jetty definitely fits the bill. Although the shore is scattered with driftwood, only sand lies between your car and the beach.

If you’re looking to play in the ocean, you’ll need to dodge plenty of beach debris tossed up by the churning sea. And you’re not even halfway to the water when you hit the open sand just past the shaggy beach grass.

We visited on a sunny day with a light breeze – optimal conditions for a beach visit. Hardy Pacific Northwest surfers rode the waves, beach goers frolicked on the sand, and shore birds darted along the water’s edge.  We watched the breakers rolling up the Umpqua River south jetty and easily forgot the area is surrounded by OHVers. We enjoyed the sound and smell of the ocean instead.

Walk Details for Lot 1 beach
Terrain: Pavement and then sand, a gentle slope over a low sand dune.

There is a picnic table marked for handicapped access to the right of a signpost just off the trail to the beach. Although the table has a cutout for wheelchair parking, the path to reach it is sand, narrow and steep. Many wheelchairs could not negotiate this route.

Seating: No, unless you find appropriately-sized driftwood. Be safe – check for stability before sitting.
Fee: Day pass or recreation pass
Restrooms: Yes, on the west side of the parking lot.
Directions: From Highway 101 in Winchester Bay, turn west on Salmon Harbor Drive. Stay on this road past the marina and RV camping areas. You will come to a V where you can go straight or veer left. Stay left, this is still Salmon Harbor Drive. Turn into the first parking lot on the right near the Umpqua South Jetty Beach Access sign.

Lot 2 viewing deck

75 Steps Wheels:

If you’re looking for a less sandy location to watch oceanfront sights, the Lot 2 viewing deck is fabulous. Resting on the highest spot in the area, you have a seated 180-degree view.

Turn around and look east to see Oregon’s renowned dunes. The steep sand hills are often marked with wheel tracks from off-road vehicles. You may even see motorcycles climbing a dune and catching air at the top, or hear ATVs rumbling as they traverse the slopes of the dunes.

If you continue past the bench, sand over pavement continues, declining until it reaches the bottom of a small dune. You must go over the dune in loose sand to reach the beach via this route, about another 125 steps in total from bench to open sand.

Walk Details for Lot 2 viewing deck
Terrain: Thin layer of sand over old pavement leads up a moderate slope to the viewing deck and bench.
Seating: One bench
Fee: Day pass or recreation pass
Restrooms: Yes, on the north side of the parking lot.
Directions: About 1 mile past Lot 1 (see directions above), turn right into the parking lot. The bench is visible from the parking lot, and the path to reach it leaves from the northwest corner of the lot.

Lot 2 beach

125 Steps Wheels:

Lot 2 accesses the same beach as Lot 1, just a bit farther south. So why bother with Lot 2? On our visits, this beach segment always had fewer visitors. It’s also a greater distance from the river mouth, so driftwood is less abundant. And, although still quite a trek, you’re closer to the water’s edge. So if a peaceful outing or splashing in the sea is your goal, Lot 2 is the better choice.

Lot 2 has two routes to the beach: continue past the viewing bench, or take the more direct side path. The length of both is about the same. The side path is flatter but the ground is loose sand the whole way.

Walk Details for Lot 2 beach
Terrain: Sand. Single wide, mostly level path winds through the beach grass.
Seating: No, unless you find appropriately-sized driftwood. Be safe – check for stability before sitting.
Fee: Day pass or recreation pass
Restrooms: Yes, on the north side of the parking lot.
Directions: About 1 mile past Lot 1 (see directions above), turn right into the parking lot. Start up the path to the viewing bench, but branch right just before the boards bordering the trail start. This side path winds through beach grass until it reaches the open sand.