Quiet, unique, beautiful, pristine and filled with soaring dunes next to the ocean, Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is a memorable place to explore. Containing the tallest dunes on the west coast, some over 500 feet high, the Preserve is special and inspiring.
With many sensitive plants and birds, like the western snowy plover and California least tern, this preserve provides important habitat as well as remarkable miles of hiking on the beach and in the dunes. The plants and wildlife in the narrow valleys between the stabilized dunes are especially interesting, surprising and notable. In addition to the dunes, in the northern part of the Preserve, the seasonally created lagoon is filled with birds to watch and enjoy.
Guadalupe – Drive west on Hwy 166 to the end of the road.
Santa Barbara County
80 miles (driving)
Beach Activities, Birdwatching, Hiking, Other Recreational Activities (Surf Fishing), Picnicking, Swimming, Viewing, Walking, Watchable Wildlife
The Preserve was used as a location in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 film The Ten Commandments.
For more information on the Preserve, including an excellent short video, check out the website of the Dunes Center. Part of the dunes are closed between March 1st and October 1st for western snowy plover protection. You can, however, walk down the beach past the closures to enter and explore the high dunes. Even if the wind is blowing hard on the shore, the dunes provide warmth and shelter. The summer can be foggy and cold. In spring, the dunes are filled with colorful and fragrant wildflowers.
Nearby Public Land Worth Visiting: Directly to the North of the State Preserve is the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to more than 120 plant and animal species. Access is only on-foot. Both Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge and Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Reserve are part of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex, which has been designated a National Natural Landmark and constitutes the Earth’s largest intact coastal dune ecosystem.