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Oso Flaco Lake and the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Oso Flaco Lake lies within the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, the largest remaining coastal dune system in California and an important breeding area for several imperiled species, including the western snowy plover, California least tern, and California red-legged frog. The lake is within the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, but is off-limits to the noisy...
Oso Flaco Lake lies within the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, the largest remaining coastal dune system in California and an important breeding area for several imperiled species, including the western snowy plover, California least tern, and California red-legged frog. The lake is within the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, but is off-limits to the noisy off-road vehicles that frequently swarm nearby. Enjoy the natural quiet at the lake.

In 1923, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments was filmed in the Nipomo Dunes and the sets were later buried beneath the sand; more recently, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was shot in the dunes. Picnic tables and benches alongside an accessible trail offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the rare coastal lake as well as abundant birds and wildlife. A boardwalk crosses the lake, then travels through dunes, which support more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.

Visitor center: Located in a restored 1910 Craftsman-style bungalow, three miles south of Oso Flaco Lake in the town of Guadalupe. On the wheelchair-accessible first floor you can see a treasure of period furnishings and accurately restored elements of the Craftsman style. The second floor is not accessible, but the videos that are shown upstairs can be shown downstairs upon request. Among these videos is a fascinating story about the Dunites, a community of artists and free spirits who lived in the dunes during the Depression; another details the making of The Ten Commandments.

Trail/Pathway Details

Dune Trail

Trailhead: Lot at foot of Oso Flaco Lake Road

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Overgrown plants narrow the path in some sections, possibly preventing access for some manual wheelchair riders.

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Terrain: Hard

The first section of trail is hard-packed dirt and can be muddy during the rainy months. Sand blown across the trail in some places may prevent passage.

Description

The one-mile Dune Trail travels through three very different environments—woodlands, wetlands, and dunes—and is excellent for spotting birds. You travel the first few hundred yards on firm dirt through streamside woodland, with arroyo willows, wax myrtles, and other trees providing a canopy of shade—something you won't find elsewhere on the trail. You can hear the burbling creek, the...
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Accessibility Details

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

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

Available seven days a week, 10 am-4 pm. Best to call several days in advance to reserve: Dunes Center: (805) 343-2455; Oceano Dunes Ranger Station: (805) 473-7220; or ask entrance station attendant at Oso Flaco.

Accessible Parking: Limited Accessibility

At Oso Flaco Lake there is no striping, only a disabled parking sign. Surface is hard-packed dirt and gravel. Visitor center has accessible parking. Portable units at trailhead and near end of accessible portion of trail have no running water; visitor center has full restroom
On boardwalk over lake and at end of accessible portion of the trail at the dunes

Other Things of Interest

Some 12 miles south of Oso Flaco is Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, where you can see great expanses of the dunes from your car and there is level access onto the dunes. 
New overlook where trail ends
New overlook where trail ends (Dan McElhinney, Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center)

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Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • hiking
  • picnic
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.dunescenter.org/
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: Foot of Oso Flaco Lake Rd.
Nearest City: Guadalupe
Phone: (805) 473-7223
Hours: Daily, 6 am-6 pm
Dunes visitor center: Tues.-Sun., 10 am-4 pm
Fees: Parking
Dogs: Not allowed

Did You Know?

Sedges have edges, and rushes are round, and reeds are hollow right down to the ground. 

Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, June 29, 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.

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Accessible Wheelchair Icon looks like a wheelchair with balloon wheelsBeach 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
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