“Wow, they’ve really added to the trail system since I was last here!” Theresa said as we rode through the dunes at Bullards Beach State Park. We had gone to Bullards Beach several years earlier, and at that time there was just one trail through the dunes. Since then, however, the park staff and local equestrian volunteers have created and signed two new trails, significantly increasing the riding opportunities in the park.
The original trail through the dunes is the Cut Creek Trail, which follows an old road behind the foredune. Several short connector trails run from the Cut Creek Trail over the foredune to the beach.
The new North Loop Trail runs farther inland and connects to the Cut Creek Trail on both ends, while the new Three Mares Loop is still farther inland and connects with the North Loop Trail on both ends.
These trails provide some nice loop opportunities for days when the beach is windy or the tide is high, plus they can be linked to the beach for even more miles of riding.
An additional trail at Bullards Beach runs across an open stretch of dunes from the horse camp to the tiny, picturesque Coquille River Lighthouse. You can tie your horse at the lighthouse and take a short tour, or just enjoy the view and then make a loop back to the horse camp via the beach.
The trails through the dunes feature varied vegetation, from dune grasses to dense stands of shore pine. In season the gorse and Scotch broom have vibrant yellow flowers. You’ll want to give the gorse a wide berth, though: this invasive species creates dense thickets covered with nasty thorns. (If you picture the impenetrable thorns that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what gorse is like.) The footing is loose sand in some stretches and hard-packed sand held in place by vegetation in other areas.
Bullards Beach State Park also offers a well-appointed horse camp, with widely-spaced campsites, wooden corrals, garbage cans, a toilet, a manure bin, and potable water from spigots.
With excellent riding, a nice horse camp, and hot showers in the family campground just down the road, Bullards Beach State Park has just about everything you need for a great horse camping vacation any time of year.
Ride Statistics: You can do up to a 6 mile loop by linking the Cut Creek Trail and the beach, or a 6 mile loop via the Cut Creek and North Loop Trails. The Three Mares Loop is 4 miles long, and the Lighthouse Loop is 5 miles round trip. You can create longer or shorter loops by linking the trails in various ways. The footing is suitable for barefoot horses. There is no stock water on the trail. The best map of the trails is Oregon State Parks’ Bullards Beach State Park brochure, available on-line.
Getting to Bullards Beach Horse Camp: From Coos Bay, drive south on Hwy. 101 for 22 miles. From Bandon, drive north on Hwy. 101 for 2.5 miles. All, turn west on Park Road and follow it 1 mile to the horse camp on the right.
Season: Year round
The Facilities at Bullards Beach Horse Camp: Eight sites with 2- or 4-horse wood corrals. Two sites are pull-through; the rest are back-ins. All are level and graveled, with room for two vehicles. All sites have fire pits and picnic tables. You’ll also find a portable toilet, manure bin, garbage cans, and water spigots with potable water. The family campground nearby has hot showers and flush toilets. A fee is charged for overnight camping, and reservations (800-452-5687) are required. The day-use parking area, which is free, has picnic tables and hitching rails.
More Information: The trails at Bullards Beach are covered in more detail in the Bullards Beach Horse Camp chapter of Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2014).
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Horse Source magazine, October 2015.