Needle Rock Visitor's Center

Needle Rock Visitor’s Center


The Lost Coast trail is the premier coastal backpacking trail in California and because of its significance has been designated a National Recreation Trail. The experience of hiking where the land meets the sea is unforgettable and strenuous.  This is the California Coastal Trail at its finest!

The Lost Coast in Northern California

The Lost Coast in Northern California

Each year a few hundred people hike the entire 52 mile trail that requires walking on boulders, cobbles, pebbles, sand, dirt, and duff.  On the north section you hike on a beach and on the south section you hike 12,000 feet of altitude difference, more than in and out of the Grand Canyon!  The north section of the Lost Coast Trail (24 miles) is in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) King Range National Conservation Area.

The south section (28 miles) is in California’s Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

There is a 4 mile section of road in the Shelter Cove area that separates the north and south sections of the Lost Coast trail. The experienced, fit backpacker can do the entire route in 8-9 days. If you do not have time for the entire trail, you can hike the north section in about 4 days or the south section in about 4 days. This averages hiking 7 miles per day and is plenty of distance for the average backpacker, given the challenges of the terrain.

As you may have already learned, there is very little information on the Lost Coast trail. Some of the existing information may be inaccurate. What you read here is hopefully clear factual information from people who make repeated trips to the area every year.

If you are looking to join a group that hikes the Lost Coast trail, I know of one organization and can highly recommend them. Coastwalk, a non-profit organization, advocates for coastal protection and access via the California Coastal Trail and offers fun and educational walking tours.

Every June, Coastwalk offers 8 day backpack trips that cover the entire Lost Coast trail, from the mouth of the Mattole River to Usal Campground.

For a great map of California’s Lost Coast visit Amazon : California’s Lost Coast (Wilderness Press Maps)

9 Responses to “Introduction”

  1. Lost Coast Trails 02.22.2012 at 10:09 AM #

    I just learned about a great Lost Coast blog done by Paul, a King Range Wilderness Ranger. The link is Since Paul is a BLM Ranger, his blog is about the northern half of the Lost Coast trail. Check it out if you are planning on hiking between the Mattole River and Black Sands Beach.

  2. mountainnemo 12.08.2013 at 8:24 PM #

    I am interested in doing a winter backpacking trip with the realization that it could be stormy. What advice would give me for hiking the beach during inclement weather?

    • Lost Coast Trails 12.09.2013 at 6:44 AM #

      First, I would not recommend hiking the trails in the winter when rain/storms pose a threat. The best times are in the Spring (Apr/May) and fall (Sep/Oct). You can go online and find a precipitation history chart which will show you the months with the lowest rain. Naturally summer poses the greatest chance for fog.

      If you insist in hiking in the winter and have flexibility in your plans, I would watch the long range forecast and try and choose a period when there is relatively high pressure in the region and no forecast for storms.

      In general, I think the greatest problems occur when people go to the Lost Coast from other parts of the country/world and have no flexibility in their travel plans. They just start out no matter what the conditions are. Having traveled, I understand the concept of trying to do what you have planned on a trip. But sometimes, one needs to use judgment and realize that the weather conditions have made it unsafe and come up with a plan B.

      If you are going to hike the north section in winter, you have greater chance of sneaker waves and you must really watch the tide charts to insure you don’t get stuck in those areas that are at a lower level along the ocean. I assume you have a map that outlines the areas where you must hike only at high tide.

      I would hike north to south to insure I have the winter wind at my back.

      Make sure you let someone know your plans so if there is an emergency, someone will alert the authorities.

      Clothing wise, wear the layers that will protect you and also have full rain gear. I personally don’t care to hike anymore through hours of rain and wind or even the potential of that type of environment.

      Have I answered your question? If not, let’s talk more!!

      • mountainnemo 08.17.2014 at 5:59 PM #

        Thanks for the response. I had been before in the fall but never the winter so was not sure as to the conditions. Ended up going to the Ventana Wilderness instead and went to LC in the spring. I appreciate your response.



  3. eric 10.13.2014 at 2:50 PM #

    I’m planning a 3 day, 2 night backpacking trip this November. Any suggestions on which part of the Trail to explore? Thanks so much in advance.

    • Lost Coast Trails 10.14.2014 at 6:40 AM #

      For a three day trip, I would recommend exploring the Sinkyone State Park section of the trail. In November, you are starting into the winter season and the King Range northern section of the Lost Coast trail is much more exposed since you are always along the beach.

      In the Sinkyone State Park you have a couple of options depending on your goals. Your first option is to hike the entire south section of the trail, which is 19 miles long. You would park your car at Needle Rock. Then hike to Wheeler which is 7 miles. The second day you would hike to Anderson Gulch which is 7 miles. The last day you would hike to Usal, which is 5 miles. Then you would have to get someone to pick you up and take you back to your car at Needle Rock. There are shuttle services listed in my blog.

      Your second option is to park your car at Needle Rock and then hike to Wheeler for the first night. For second day, you could use Wheeler as your base camp and hike as far south as you want to explore before coming back to Wheeler. Then on the final day you hike back to Needle Rock.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Hope you have a great trip. Let us know how it went!

      Lost Coast Al

  4. Eric 12.09.2014 at 3:20 AM #


    Thanks for your excellent website. I’m wondering if anyone has ever resupplied in Shelter Cove when doing the full Usal to Mattole hike. I was thinking I would send a cache to myself general delivery and wondered if anyone has done this before.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Lost Coast Trails 12.09.2014 at 9:14 AM #

      Be advised that there is no post office in Shelter Cove. The nearest post office is at 498 Shelter Cove Rd., Whitethorn, CA 95589. If you went from the Hidden Valley trailhead to the Whitethorn post office and then to the Black Sand Beach trailhead, I would estimate the total trip to be around eight miles. FYI, the straight line distance between Hidden Valley and Black Sand Beach is four miles. Hope this helps you.
      Lost Coast Al

      • Eric 12.10.2014 at 2:47 AM #


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