The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are the largest intact coastal dune ecosystem on Earth. They curve up and down for 18 miles along the coast south of Pismo Beach. Here, freshwater lagoons and pristine beaches create a variety of habitats for endangered species like snowy plovers and northern elephant seals. The dunes are filled with plants that are specially adapted to this unique environment, including flat-leafed spectacle pod and an endemic type of mint with flowers that look like fireworks.
These dunes offer researchers and visitors dramatic views of the Santa Maria River Estuary and lots to explore, with sandy peaks reaching as high as the Washington Monument. It’s easy to see why Cecil B. DeMille chose this windswept landscape to be the “Egypt” of his film The Ten Commandments. Today, remains of the set—secretly buried by DeMille’s crew in the 1920s—rise from the sand, including the remains of a giant sphinx.
Visitors will find many ways to explore this magnificent landscape. The dunes contain miles of hiking trails, an art gallery, a native species garden, several campgrounds and public beaches.