(article and photos by Nick Martin)
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has more than six miles of trails available for guests to explore. The trails interweave and connect the property in some unexpected and interesting ways. Here is a guide to help you discover and explore some hidden gems of the resort.
From the Main Lodge, the first place someone interested in the trails should go is the Overlook. At the Green clock between the Lodge and the Pro Shop at the starter's house, turn your back on the first tee at Bandon Dunes and look east. Walk past the shuttle and bag drop to the far side of the parking lot. There you will find a path climbing up the side of the Dunes. The path is quite steep and covered with wood chips.
After a gradual turn to the left you’ll reach the top and a round patio made from old railroad ties. From the patio you have a crow's-eye view of the Lodge, as well as the first, ninth, tenth, and eighteenth holes at Bandon Dunes. On a crisp day you’ll have a clear view of the Pacific Ocean as well as part of the Preserve.
If you're feeling adventurous and would like to walk to Pacific Dunes, turn left from the Overlook patio.
Main Overlook to Pacific Dunes
Instead of returning down the hill to the Lodge, turn left after stepping off the Overlook patio and walk along the top of the dunes to the north. An easy way to remember the compass points: If the ocean is on your left, you're going north. The path cuts through beach grass and gorse until it reaches the alternate tees for number two at Bandon Dunes. Don't worry if you feel like you are walking on the course. These tees are maintained, but rarely – if ever – used.
Follow the path around the tees keeping the gorse on your immediate right. If you see a group of golfers coming up to the first green, use proper golf etiquette and let them finish out before moving on. You're out of the way and it is very likely that you will not even be seen. Continue along the path keeping the gorse on your right. The path leads behind the second green at Bandon Dunes and provides an unobstructed view of the entire hole.
From behind the second green the path leads up the hill to the back tee for number three. One of highest points and one of the best views along the dune ridge is here behind the "tips." Follow the path down the northwest slope of the dune. The path lets out in the parking lot of Pacific Dunes golf course. The trail continues up the dune ridge to the right (north) across the parking lot.
Pacific Dunes to Practice Center
At the east end of Pacific Dunes' parking lot, at the base of the dune where the trail becomes asphalt, turn right and walk along the edge of the parking lot until you come to the main entrance road for Pacific Dunes. Across the street, you should see a number of concrete steps.
From the top of the steps follow the wood-chip path up the edge of the dune to the top of the ridge. There is a great view of the eighteenth green, the clubhouse and patio at Pacific Dunes and the new putting course, the Punchbowl. The trail gets a little wild at this point.
The trail winds around, up and down cutting through gorse along the ridge top as it leads north paralleling the eighteenth fairway of Pacific Dunes. At the north end, the trail runs off the dune ridge through soft sand. Deer often use this path and it is likely you will see them.
This section of the trail is seldom used, so it is also likely you will see evidence of the diverse wildlife that lives in and amongst the dune environments. Animals such as, fox, raccoon, skunk, porcupine, beaver, ground squirrel, etc. leave footprints in the sand.
At the base of the dune, there is a holding pond used for irrigation. The trail leads around the southern edge of the pond. This is the northern most reach of the trail system at this time. From here all trails lead south.
Follow the path along the edge of the pond until you reach the main service road for the resort. Cross the road to a small parking lot. At the far end of the parking lot, there is a gravel path that leads up a gradual incline to the new Practice Center building. The gravel path yields to paver bricks at this point.
The paver path leads you around the North Tee Deck to a breezeway that connects to the bag drop and shuttle service. There are public restrooms and an enclosed observation/ sitting room, which provides free coffee, tea, water, and is a good place to have a rest. This is also a good place to catch the shuttle back to the Main Lodge or any one of the other housing facilities at the resort.
At this point, if you don't want to take the shuttle back to your lodgings and want to walk back to the lodge, continue south along the paver path past the practice putting green called the "Big Putt" and the parking lot.
Practice Center to the Labyrinth
Leading away from the Practice Center the paver path returns to gravel past the first tee at Shorty's, the nine-hole, par three practice course. The path parallels the first and second holes at Shorty's. Turn left at the trail post and follow the gravel path until you come to another trail post with green and red lines. At the red and green trail post, turn left and follow the wood-chip path behind the second green. The path marks the southern boarder of the Practice Center and runs parallel to a gravel service road.
Where the trail crosses the service road, take the path on the right. This path travels under old Rhododendrons and is the gateway to the forest portion of the trail system. Follow the forest trail to a low bridge for service vehicles. Cross the bridge, turn left, and walk up the wooden steps. Continue up the path through the forest. A short distance up the trail, on the right is an observation platform with a wooden bench. This is a good place to sit and listen to bird song.
Again, this part of the trail is seldom used and you might sit there all day and not see anyone else, aside from the odd service vehicle that might drive by a short distance away.
From the observation platform continue up the path to where the forest opens into a clearing. At this point the path widens and flattens out. Down the path a bit, you will see a pale yellow sign with a picture of what looks like a maze painted on it adjacent to three basaltic monoliths. There you will find a smaller wood-chipped path leading off the main one to the Labyrinth.
The Labyrinth is a maze intended for walking meditation. It is a replica of a maze on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France and a memorial to Howard McKee, one of the founders of Bandon Dunes and friend of Mike Keiser.
Labyrinth to the Main Lodge
From the Labyrinth continue down the forest trail to a footbridge crossing Chrome Lake. Continue across the partial dam toward Chrome Lake Cottages until you reach the base of the hill beneath the cottages themselves. Do not continue up the hill if you want to return to the main lodge. Instead, turn right at the large evergreen and follow the path under the branches to a short boardwalk. Chrome Lake will be on your right. Follow the wood-chip path until you reach an asphalt footpath. You should be able to see the Main Lodge.
Cross the resort road keeping Chrome Lake on your right. The lake flows out into Cut Creek, so named for the sea-run Cut-throat Trout that occasionally find themselves in the creek. Cut Creek flows due west down a ravine separating The Preserve from Bandon Dunes until it flows out across the beach and into the Pacific Ocean.
Follow the asphalt path up a slight hill to a set of stairs leading up several flights to the upper part of the same path. Follow the path up the rest of the hill. Cross the parking lot to the Main Lodge walkway under the eves. Walk through the double doors and into the lobby giving a wink and a nod to the front desk clerks on your right. Cross the lobby into the bar, belly up and order a double. You deserve it.
That concludes the northern circuit of the trail system. The Southern circuit is a little tougher and a little wilder, slightly longer and more remote, but the extra effort is worth it from a hiking perspective.
Main Lodge to Ridge/Dune Trail
From the Main Lodge follow the asphalt path down the hill away from the parking lot toward Cut Creek and Chrome Lake. At the base of the stairs turn left as if returning to the Labyrinth. Keeping Chrome Lake on your left, cross the main resort road and take an immediate right. Walk a short distance to another crosswalk and cross the road. Stay on the asphalt path following it into the Grove Cottage circle.
Through the Grove at the southern end of the circle there is a small, multi-car parking lot. On the western side of the parking lot there is a gap between two of the Grove Cottages; this is the start of the Dune Ridge trail. Follow the wood chipped path between cottage number 709 on the left and cottage number 710 on the right. A little way up the trail there is an outflow for the pond on the left. Stay on the wood chip path keeping to the left until you come to a gravel maintenance road for Bandon Trails.
The maintenance road T’s to the left at this point and the trail continues straight. Continue across the road keeping to the right of the maintenance road. As you travel up the path you will see number six green for Bandon Trails on the right. The trail intersects the walk path between holes six and seven here. Continue up the wooded trail leading south along the ridge. This is more of a traditional hiking trail so be prepared for rougher conditions as you climb up the trail.
The Dune Ridge trail shares a summit of sorts with the fourteenth tee at Bandon Trails. Just behind the back tee there is an overlook spot with a bench dedicated to where Mike Keiser first stood and laid out his vision for what would latter become Bandon Dunes.
From here the trail travels down the southern end of the ridge. It enters small groves of Manzanita, Rhododendron, Huckleberry and a myriad of other plant life. In the spring and fall this portion of the trail is a good place to hunt mushrooms. Again, this trail sees minimal use and it is likely you will see wildlife.
The trail winds its way down to the base of the ridge. Near the base there is a boardwalk, which traverses an intermittent wetland and marks the southern most point of the Dune Ridge trail. From here the trail flattens out and begins running back north, cutting a path through a clearing heavily covered in Salal and Sword Fern. Eventually, the trail leads back to the main entrance road.
At the main entrance road, cross and enter on the other side. This is the beginning of the Dune section of the Ridge trail.
Dune Trail to the Beach Trail
The Dune trail enters a wooded glen just off the main entrance road. It winds its way a short distance until reaches a boardwalk, which crosses over a wetland at the base of the dunes. These dunes run the entire coastline from the mouth of the Coquille River in the south to Cape Argo in the north.
After the boardwalk, the trail climbs the east side of the dune. At the top there is a bench similar to those on the Forest Trail at the Labyrinth with a view looking north along the coast and the entire Bandon Dunes Resort property. Follow the orange marked posts through the dunes. The sand is quite soft and the walking can be quite strenuous. This sandy section is roughly three quarters of a mile, but it might feel longer. Come prepared and bring water.
The Dunes trail meets the Beach trail at a junction just below the first green at Bandon Tails. Currently, the Beach trail is undergoing a renovation. Check back periodically for the latest update about the Beach trail’s status. From here the trail leads back to the Main Lodge.
Beach Trail to the Main Lodge
After reaching the Beach trail from the Dune trail, instead of following the sandy section down to the beach turn right and continue back up through a cut in the beach grass. There are a few small shore pines that mark and link where the two trails meet. Cross the Preserve service road at the yellow marked post. From this point the Beach trail enters a basin at the base of a sandy ridge that leads up to the first green at Bandon Trails golf course.
In the basin you may find silvery phacelia and wild strawberry growing along and in the trail. Watch your step. The silvery phacelia is endangered and these dunes are one of only a handful of places in the world where the plant still grows wild.
After a couple switchbacks, the trail crosses between the back of one green and the tips of the tees for hole two. Be aware of the golfers if you see them on the green. Chances are good you will see them before they see you. This section of the trail is crossed by maintenance roads and may get a little confusing.
Once you cross between the first green and the second tee box, cross the short service road and enter the trail leading down through the beach grass. Look for the yellow marked posts. The trail follows through the beach grass here for only a short distance before entering another maintenance road. The maintenance road leads up and to the left. Stay on the road following it up a small hill to the next yellow post. The trail enters the beach grass again at this point and leads down between the 18th and first hole at Bandon Trails. From here there is a good view of the first tee box, the eighteenth green, and the clubhouse.
After heading down the slope of the dune, the trail once again crosses a service road. Cross and climb the short distance up to the next section through the beach grass. The trail from here leads right along the 18th fairway so be mindful of play. Lag behind if there is a group on the green.
There is one more maintenance road crossing before the trail leads back to the first tees at Bandon Trails. Turn right once you reach the first tee and follow the trail back to the clubhouse via the patio, or up the hill to the left where the shuttles are. Here, you can either get on a shuttle or you can walk back to the Main Lodge.
Walking back to the lodge is easy and even easier if you’re staying at the Inn. From the green clock near the bag drop, follow the paver path down the hill on the left side of the road. Turn left as if walking to the first tee at the Preserve. Continue past the start house and down the hill toward the Inn. The pavers give way to a concrete sidewalk.
Follow the sidewalk past the front of the Inn until you find the asphalt path leading back down to the left toward Cut Creek. Just past the bridge you will find a series of stairs. Follow the stairs up to the practice green at Bandon Dunes golf course and around the golf course side of the Main Lodge.