Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) cares for the safety of all of our visitors enjoying the dunes whether you are camping, surfing, operating an off-highway vehicle (OHV) or riding your horse along the beach. We remind our visitors to employ safe practices and always be aware of your surroundings. Below you will find safety tips and regulations while riding and recreating in the park.

Personal Safety Equipment

ATV riding on a duneAlways wear a properly sized and secured Department of Transportation compliant helmet.  Other riding gear and equipment such as goggles, neck braces, long sleeves, pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves are strongly recommended. Be sure to familiarize yourself with OHV laws, rules and regulations, such as helmet requirements while operating All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV).


Speed limits on the beach and shoreline and within campsites or near concentrations of people are 15MPH and are enforced at Oceano Dunes SVRA. Remember that you are sharing the beach with other vehicles, pedestrians, shorebirds and other wildlife, so relax, enjoy the scenery and take your time.

While recreating in the OHV area, always maintain appropriate speeds that are safe for the conditions with the ability to control, turn or stop your vehicle if necessary. Remember to adjust your speed if wind, fog or light conditions limit visibility.

Whip & Flag Safety Regulations 

California State Parks requires a whip and flag for all vehicles recreating at Oceano Dunes SVRA.  A whip and flag is a safety equipment requirement intended to provide increased visibility while recreating in the dunes.

  • A whip is any pole, rod, or antenna securely mounted on the vehicle that extends at least eight feet from the surface of the ground, and must stand upright when the vehicle is stopped
  • The flag must be solid red or orange colored, a minimum size of 6" x 12", and within 10" of the top of the whip

Two ATVs on a Sand DuneKnow Your Limits

Accidents may be avoided by simply taking your time, being aware of your surroundings and recreating in a safe and responsible manner. Never attempt to exceed your skill level and training and always consider your options as you explore the dunes. Additional considerations while you explore Oceano Dunes SVRA,

  • Make sure to drink plenty of water, take breaks, be aware of rider fatigue
  • Keep your ears open. Wearing earbuds or listening to loud music may limit your ability to communicate or be aware of approaching vehicles
  • Never operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Scout Your Route

Learn to read the dunes. Take time to explore the terrain and understand where steep drop-offs occur. The prevailing winds that blow in from the ocean sweep sand particles unto wave-like crests that run north and south. On the west or windward side, the slope is gentle. On the east or leeward side, the slope is steep.  For this reason, the leeward slope is called the slipface. When approaching the top of a dune, scout the other side before proceeding. Be careful at midday as the lack of shadows makes it hard to spot hazards. Avoid riding on vegetation or wet sand, do not ride beyond the fence lines, and please contact a Ranger to report any hazards or safety concerns you may discover.

Sand Dune Diagram

Reach and Operate 

Remember that every operator is required to be able to reach and operate all controls necessary to safely operate the vehicle. Placing children on ATV’s or other OHV’s that are too large for them, may not only be unsafe but may also be against the law and parents may be held responsible.

Other Operational Tips

While recreating in Oceano Dunes SVRA or other OHV areas, some other operational and safety considerations for you,

  • While driving up a dune, sounding your horn may alert other drivers of your presence
  • You should always use a spotter and look before you jump
  • Always supervise younger riders
  • When approaching the top of a ridge, approach at an angle to see if it is safe to proceed

ATV Laws

Three ATVs on a Sand DuneIn California, there are laws specific to operating an ATV on public lands.

  • Double riding is against the law. Unless specifically designed to carry a passenger, it is against the law for an operator to carry a passenger on an ATV
  • Operators are required to wear a helmet at all times while riding an ATV on public lands


All riders ages 14 to 17 must:

  • Possess an ATV Safety Certificate, or
  • Be under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian who has completed an ATV safety course and has an ATV Safety Certificate in his/her possession
  • Additionally, riders 13 years of age and younger must be directly supervised by a parent or guardian at all times

ROV Laws 

In California, there are laws specific to operating an ROV on public lands.

  • An operator of an ROV must be 16 years of age or be under the direct supervision of a parent, guardian, or other adult
  • A helmet is required for operator and passenger(s)
  • Seatbelts or safety harness is required for all occupants
  • Passengers must occupy a separate seat location designed and provided by the manufacturer and must be seated upright, with back against the seatback and able to grasp the occupant handhold when seatbelt/safety harness is properly fastened

Vehicle Registration

  • All OHVs must be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles and display a current green or red sticker.