The dune has a volume of about 60,000,000 m³, measuring around 500 m wide from east to west and 2.7 km in length from north to south. Its height is currently 110 meters above sea level. The dune is a famous tourist destination with more than one million visitors per year.
The dune is considered a foredune, meaning a dune that runs parallel to a shoreline, behind the high tide line of a beach. The dune has been observed to move landward, slowly pushing the forest back to cover houses, roads and portions of the Atlantic Wall. To back this evidence of coastal movement, maps from 1708 and 1786 both place areas with the name Pilat to the south and off-shore of the current dune's location. The area where the dune currently does not stand was referred to "Les Sabloneys" or the "New Sands" until the 1930s when it was renamed by real estate developers as the Dune of Pilat. Pilat originates from the Gascon word Pilhar, which refers to a heap or mound.
On 24 January 2009, a peak windspeed of 175 km/h (109 mph) was recorded during a storm at the dune, damaging the dune.