Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is a place where beach-lovers can swim and surf on the edge of a park holding miles of towering sand dunes and hundreds of species of threatened and wonderful wildlife.
Spreading over 600 acres of natural wonders, with 18 miles of white sand and deep blue waves, Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is part of the largest intact coastal dune ecosystem on earth.
A steady wind sweeps over the sand and sculpts the dunes to over 550 feet high in some places, creating the West Coast’s tallest dunes. During the winter months, visitors to the park are invited to scamper up the dunes to see the rare floral life sprouting from its peaks. However, much of the park is out of bounds from March to October to protect the nesting grounds of some of California’s rarest birds.
The north of the park is the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 100 species of rare plants and animals and 200 different species of birds can be found. These include the California Least Tern, the California red-legged frog, the Morro blue butterfly, and the Western Snowy Plover. You can also find mountain lions, bobcats, and mule deer.
Observing these wild creatures isn’t the only activity offered. You can surf and swim over the miles of pristine coast-land and enjoy fishing, whale watching, and picnicking. Hikers explore the geological formations made by the sweeping winds. There is no system of established trails in the park, leaving voyagers free to explore the wild landscape on their own.
One popular route is a strenuous trek to Mussel Point. It is not for the faint of heart! Mussel Point is only accessible by hiking an eroded 6-mile road along the ocean. Visitors must plan carefully if they are to make the 6-mile trek to the beach and return before nightfall, as no one is allowed to camp overnight. Those who make it, however, are rewarded with stunningly beautiful geological formations and sapphire beaches.
Film enthusiasts will also find Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve a fascinating getaway. These dunes were the location of the 1923 film The Ten Commandments, where Cecil B. DeMille built the largest set in movie history. DeMille crafted his own Ancient Egypt, complete with four 40-tons statues of Ramses the Great, eight plaster lions, a dozen sphinxes, and a 120 foot-high backdrop.
When the filming of The Ten Commandments was complete, DeMille ordered the entire set to be secretly buried in the dunes. In 1983, a group of film buffs used cryptic clues left in DeMille’s autobiography and discovered what thereafter was called The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille. In 2012, after 30 years of fighting for funding, support, and permit rights, one of DeMille’s sphinxes was excavated with hundreds of other artifacts, which are now on display at the Dune Center in Guadalupe.
Rancho Guadalupe Dune Preserve is one of the most unique beaches to visit in California. The diverse wildlife, stunning natural formations, wondrous white beaches, and enthralling film history makes this park a breath-taking adventure for anyone.