Introduction to the Lost Coast Trail


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 Trail

On the north section of the Lost Coast Trail you will mainly be walking on boulders, pebbles, and sand. This is in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) King Range National Conservation Area.

The south section is in California’s Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Here you will hike 12,000 feet of altitude difference – more than in and out of the Grand Canyon!

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. I suggest that you take Horse Mountain Creek Trail to King Peak Road, 0.2 miles on Shelter Cove Road to Chemise Mountain Road where you will find Hidden Valley Trailhead (or vise versa if traveling south to north). This will significantly reduce your time walking on Shelter Cove Road.

The averages hiking distance is 8 miles per day and is plenty of distance for the average backpacker, given the challenges of the terrain.

The Wilderness Press map provides information for both the King Range and the Sinkyone. However, if you only need a map for the King Range I highly suggest getting a BLM map from the office is Arcata or Whitethorn – this map is much more accurate. I’ve talked with dozens of people using the Wilderness Press map that have no idea where they are.

84 Responses to “Introduction to the Lost Coast Trail”

  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!

    • Visit Shelter Cove 02.10.2015 at 12:25 PM #

      A night in Shelter Cove is a nice break in the trip. I took two nights, and a very happy zero day. I had a cache delivered to the hotel where I stayed, and they were really cool about keeping it for me.

    • 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 #


  5. Lindsay 12.21.2014 at 4:38 PM #

    I am planning to backpack either the northern trail or southern trail (can’t remember the names) soon. I was wondering how strenuous each one was. Can you tell me if one is more difficult than the other? Thank you!

    • Lost Coast Trails 12.22.2014 at 7:24 AM #

      I’m glad you are going to hike the Lost Coast soon. Remember it is winter and there is always the possibility of storms. Temperatures are in the 40-50 degree range right now.
      Just be prepared for any possibility.

      When comparing the King Range northern hike to the Sinkyone Park southern hike, one must talk about what is more difficult for the hiker. In the King Range you are doing flat hiking on sand and rocks for 24 miles. In the Sinkyone Park you are doing continual elevation changes for 27 miles with a total of 12,000 feet of altitude change. Most hikers have gone up and down hills and mountains but I have not met many who have purposely hiked for 24 miles along the ocean. So, to define which is more strenuous, really depends on your previous experience and what is more challenging for you.

      To the inexperienced, hiking along the ocean seems easy but it really depends how good you are at finding that line along the ocean where your shoe is least likely to sink into the sand. Also, there are sections where you must hike on a variety of different sized rocks.

      Lost Coast Al

  6. sophie 12.24.2014 at 4:14 PM #

    Hi! I’d like to hike the lost coast in early january. I recognize there is a possibility of storms, but unfortunately it is the only window I have available. Will there be available water sources and suitable campsites along the south section?

    • Lost Coast Trails 12.24.2014 at 7:24 PM #

      Hiking the Sinkyone Park portion of the Lost Coast trail in January can be very pleasant. It just depends on the weather. While the chance of storms is greater in the winter, there is also the possibility of having some sunny days with moderate temperatures. Wear layered clothing and have raingear available. Recommend hiking north to south so that you always have the wind at your back.

      You will have no problem finding suitable spots in the established campsites. Few people hike in the winter so you will always find a space. All campsites are located in close proximity to streams. Just be sure to purify your water.

      Lost Coast Al

  7. Teddy 12.27.2014 at 7:50 PM #

    Hi there! I’m hoping to hike Sinkyone Park this upcoming week for New Years and have several questions. For starters, is it legal to have campfires in this section of the park during the winter season? Also, we’re most likely only going to hike to Wheeler and back over the course of the three days due to time limitations. Is that section of the hike particularly treacherous?

    • Lost Coast Trails 12.27.2014 at 8:23 PM #

      There are fire rings at each campsite for your fires. So no problem there. The hike from Needle Rock to Wheeler is not treacherous and the weather forecast for New Years week
      looks great. Have fun.
      Lost Coast Al

  8. Diane 01.14.2015 at 6:37 PM #

    Is it possible to do an overnight trip out and back? Where would you recommend we start? Mostly just interested in enjoying the scenery and getting some exercise. Can’t spend a full 3 days to do either the North or South

    • Lost Coast Trails 01.14.2015 at 10:39 PM #

      A great overnight trip would be to start at the Sinkyone State Park’s Needle Rock Visitor Center and hike south to Wheeler campsite. Stay overnite and hike back to Needle Rock. This is about a 15 mile round trip and will give you plenty of exercise and allow you to enjoy the scenery.

  9. Hannah Perry 01.28.2015 at 3:43 PM #

    A group of us who have backpacked in Alaska and Colorado are planning on hiking this trail in late June. I have read that 4 days and 3 nights is required for completing the trail. Would you say this time allows for relaxing time on the beach or is all day hiking from sunrise to sunset?

    • Lost Coast Trails 01.28.2015 at 11:05 PM #

      Sounds like you are all seasoned backpackers and are planning to hike the Lost Coast trail in June when you will have 15 hours of daylight.

      For the average hiker, I recommend 6 nights and 7 days to cover the entire 55 miles from the mouth of the Mattole River to Usal Campground. This is an average of 8 miles a day.

      For an advanced group that likes to hike faster, you can shorten the hike down to six or five days if you leave early in the morning and the trail conditions do not slow you down. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call and you know your group. Four days is pushing too far for anyone’s enjoyment.

      By the way, when I was camp hosting at the Needle Rock Visitor Center, I met a young man who did the entire trail in 12 hours. How? He was an ultra marathon runner. He was wearing what looked like ballerina shoes – amazing to me!

      Lost Coast Al

  10. Melanie 02.11.2015 at 3:44 PM #

    I was thinking of running the Northern or Southern part of the trail all in 1 day sometime in May. Start at dawn and be done by dusk (at the very latest). An average marathon of 25 miles take 4.5 hours… If I double that to take into account the elevation, intermittent walking/rest and rough terrain, it seems reasonable to me. And of course I would have to account for the tide changes for the Northern part. Thoughts? Sounds do-able?

    • Lost Coast Trails 02.11.2015 at 8:16 PM #

      Usually I talk about hiking the trails and this is getting out of my area of expertise. Sure it’s possible but only you can decide if running these trails is appropriate for you. Maybe other readers of this blog who are runners could make some comments. The two trails are quite different. The north trail being all beach hiking and the south trail having considerable elevation change, equivalent to hiking from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up to the top. Good luck on your decision.
      Lost Coast Al

  11. p0nzy 02.11.2015 at 6:52 PM #

    Hi, gathering information about this hike is indeed very limited. Could the “north side-24miles” be done in one day during month of july (considering the low-high tide stat on that month) Honestly speaking, i dont want to do it in just one day but with very limited time i want to experience it all in one day only if it is “safely” possible. Thanks in advance.

    • Lost Coast Trails 02.11.2015 at 8:42 PM #

      I seem to be getting more questions about doing these hikes as fast as possible. Generally speaking, I urge hikers to walk at their own pace but also allow time to relax and take in the unique scenery.

      Yes, a very strong hiker can hike from dawn to dusk in the summer and do the north hike in one day safely, assuming they abide by the tide charts. This is assuming you regularly hike at that pace. I am assuming you can keep up a steady pace on small rocks and sand to do it.
      Only you know your capabilities.

      At a minimum, I would encourage you to try and add an additional day to allow yourself to stop occasionally and take in the sights.
      Lost Coast Al

  12. Orlando 02.22.2015 at 2:24 PM #


    I’m planning to hike the first week of April (Tues. – Thurs.) The plan is to hike the northern section. I’m going with my girlfriend and this is her first backpacking trip, so I’m trying to make her feel as comfortable as possible. I just have a few questions that I hope you can help me with.

    1. Bathroom – I have read that we are supposed to do our business closer to the beach, where high tide can wash away our remnants? Does this sound accurate?

    2. Are we allowed to have a campfire?

    3. How do you feel about DSLR cameras on the trail? I want to bring my to capture the great scenery, but I don’t want it to get ruined. Do you suggest the purchase of a waterproof bag or is a simple point and shoot a better option?

    Thanks for the help. I look forward to the hike. Been wanting to do this for a while now.

    • Lost Coast Trails 02.22.2015 at 7:48 PM #

      I understand you are going to do the northern section of the Lost Coast trail from the mouth of the Mattole to Black Sand Beach.

      Since this is the first backpacking trip for your girlfriend, I would urge you to be sure you want to introduce her to backpacking on sand and various size rocks for 24 miles. Just because the hike is flat does not mean it is easy or enjoyable for everyone. I encourage you to talk with her about her abilities and expectations. There is nothing worse than getting several hours out on this hike and discovering that one of the group simply cannot or does not want to continue the trip.

      Regarding human waste disposal, you are correct. You should bury your waste at least 200 feet (70 paces) from campsites, trails and drinking water sources. Dispose of your solid waste in the wet sand near the ocean. Dig a hole 6-8 inches and make your deposit and cover it. Many folks are a bit bashful about squatting out in the open on the beach. Just walk a few minutes north or south and find a place. You can put toilet paper in the hole but if you can pack it out, that is even better. All feminine hygiene products must ALWAYS be packed out.

      Currently campfires are permitted. Use Leave No Traces techniques. That means I should not be able to see a campfire area after you leave. Clear all flammable materials away from the fire. Use only dead or downed wood. Keep fires small and a person in attendance at all times. Extinguish fire with water until coals are cold. When you get to the trailhead and register to get a Backcountry Use Permit, check the board for any campfire restrictions.

      Regarding cameras, I would always recommend carrying a waterproof bag to protect your camera from rain or if you accidently fall into a creek while crossing it. Regarding DSLR versus point and shoot, only you can decide. I have seen both used along the trails. It just depends on your photographic needs. Obviously, the point and shoot is much smaller and easier to operate.

      Lost Coast Al

  13. jacob 02.23.2015 at 8:21 PM #

    hello! i am in the early stages of planning a trip to the northern section of the lost coast trail. im thinking of going late july or early august
    i am very flexible on the time it would take to do the trip
    any advice on what the weather would be like? any specific gear that proved to be pretty useful?

    btw that guy running the entire trail in 12 hours is amazing

    • Lost Coast Trails 02.23.2015 at 9:48 PM #

      For the northern section, allow two to three nights, depending on how much you want to want to hike each day. Everyone has their own pace.
      The temperatures in the July-August timeframe will be 50-70 with the high possibility of fog, particularly before noon. I am not aware of any unique gear for this hike except having to carry bear canisters.

      Lost Coast Al

  14. Eric Klein 03.12.2015 at 6:12 AM #

    I will be doing this hike at the end of the month. Was thinking of doing a bit of surf fishing in the afternoon. Any idea if the fishing is worth the effort?
    Tks Eric

    • Lost Coast Trails 03.12.2015 at 9:00 AM #

      As you may know, all the fishing guides are the ones with boats. So, unless someone responds to this posting, it is hard to tell you exactly what is going on regarding surf fishing on the Lost Coast. However, there always seem to be some rock cod or perch that can be caught from the shore. If you enjoy fishing and don’t mind carrying the pole, I would encourage you to do it. You never know what you might catch and fishing can enhance the enjoyment of your Lost Coast backpack.

      Lost Coast Al

  15. Genevueve 03.12.2015 at 6:17 PM #

    Hi there,

    My spring break is next week and I am considering hiking the lost coast for it. Ideally I would like to do the whole thing, but if time doesn’t allow, would you recommend north or south scenery wise? What website do you recommend for most accurate weather forecast?


    • Lost Coast Trails 03.12.2015 at 9:00 PM #

      Without a doubt, I would recommend the Sinkyone State Park section of the Lost Coast trail. There are some spectacular views as you go up and down the coastal terrain whereas the King Mountain Range on the northern section is only along the ocean. I just think the elevation changes make for a more dramatic experience. Regarding the weather, I would recommend using NOAA’s National Weather Service website for Shelter Cove. This seems the most accurate.

      Lost Coast Al

  16. Julia 03.12.2015 at 7:01 PM #

    Hi Al! Thanks for all the great info. Do you know the current conditions of Usal Rd?

    • Lost Coast Trails 03.12.2015 at 9:16 PM #

      I assume you mean Usal Road from the Four Corners to the Usal trailhead. As a policy, I do not recommend visitors drive the Usal Rd. Why? Because this road is not regularly maintained and has sections that may be impassable for some vehicles. The conditions vary greatly. You drive it at your own risk. Be advised that the road is 26 miles long.

      Lost Coast Al

  17. Genevieve 03.13.2015 at 4:04 PM #

    Thanks a million! If it is supposed to rain this weekend, do you recommend giving it a few days to dry out? Or not really much of an issue..? Some terrain in more slippery than others after rain is why I am asking…

    • Lost Coast Trails 03.13.2015 at 7:46 PM #

      If you can, I would wait until Tuesday when the weather is supposed to improve. Yes, you can run into slippery areas and it is always better to give the trail time to dry out.

      Lost Coast Al

  18. Ari 03.14.2015 at 10:05 PM #

    Hi Lost Coast Al – thanks for taking the time to help us all plan our adventures.

    I’m planning to hike the lost coast in mid April (month from now) with a group of 8 (all moderately experienced). Currently we’re thinking 3 full days and 2 nights. We’re struggling to decide between the north or southern section and was wondering if you had a few suggestions on the below:

    – North section is all beach walking from Matthole to Black sands beach – 26 miles correct? I’m debating whether we may feel rushed to finish this in three days of walking on sand.

    – South section appears to be more scenic, but I read that you must camp at dedicated campgrounds rather than standard backpacking where you choose to sleep where you please. Is this true? Are all the dedicated campgrounds along the 17mile stretch simply “dedicated areas” or legitimate staging grounds with restrooms and tables? I much prefer the true “backpacking experience”

    – I would love to see elk, Are they more common in north or south?

    Thank you for the help!

    • Lost Coast Trails 03.15.2015 at 10:37 AM #

      The King Range National Conservation Area trail (north section) is 24 miles and the most comfortable schedule is four days and three nights with the fourth day fairly short. I have this schedule mentioned in my blog. Or, you can tighten it up and do 8 miles each day and end up finishing much later on the third day. While you may be experienced and can do either schedule, the question is whether the majority of your group like to stop and look around, watch the birds, take photographs and have some time for relaxation.

      The Sinkyone Wilderness State Park trail (south section) you are talking about is the 19 mile stretch between Bear Harbor and Usal. This area has “trail camps” that are right by the ocean and at the mouth of creeks (providing your water supply). These are designated areas that can easily accommodate your group of 8. There are no tables and no toilets. They meet your requirements of a “backpacking experience” camping area. They provide enjoyable experiences, like watching the birds and sunsets.
      Most hikers enjoy these areas rather than being in the woods!

      The Roosevelt elk herd is located primarily between Whale Gulch and Wheeler in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The herd travels on the same path that you use!!
      They are used to seeing backpackers all the time. If you come across them off the trail, just walk by. If you come across them on the trail, try and pass by them at a safe distance if possible. If you can’t get around them, either wait them out or slowly walk towards them and usually they will run into the woods. In the fall rutting season, be aware of the bull as he is protecting his harem and is in an “excited” condition. In the spring, be aware of the cows who are protecting the new calves. If you ever hear a bull bugling, you will never forget it.

      Lost Coast Al

  19. Andre 03.20.2015 at 8:04 PM #

    Hi fellow hikers!

    I have a few questions…
    My friend and I are planning to hike the whole LCT next weekend (Usal to Mattole, 2 days/1 night). Anyone been there recently? How’s the conditions on the trail (overgrown, water sources, mosquitos, etc).
    Any tips are appreciated.


  20. Wanda Brimmer 03.23.2015 at 9:46 AM #

    Dear Lost Coast Al,
    Two friends and I are planning on hiking the south end of the Lost Coast Trail beginning next Sunday March 29th, 2015. The weather forecast is clear with highs mid sixties. Let’s hope that pans out. We are all ladies in our sixties and experienced backpackers. We’ve hiked the complete JMT several times and have experienced winter conditions as it can only happen in the High Sierra Mountains. Having said that, none of us have ever hiked coastal trails. I have chosen the south section because the stories of being swept out to sea by rogue waves, scares me to death. My questions are: How do we avoid ticks and is there a ranger who patrols the area?


    • Lost Coast Trails 03.23.2015 at 11:12 AM #

      I am so happy to see seniors out there ripping up the trails!!! Go for it ladies!!!

      Just a comment regarding “rogue waves.” Having lived on the Pacific Ocean and hiking along its beaches for countless hours, I was always mindful of the “feel” of the ocean.
      That meant knowing the weather forecast and looking at the waves. If one is backpacking along the ocean and aware of your environment, there is a small chance that a rogue wave will ever get you. Also, the northern section of the Lost Coast trail is primarily along a wide beach. There are only a few narrower sections. So, generally you have plenty of space to get away from rogue waves.

      Regarding ticks, it seems like the springtime is probably the worst. There is no way to totally avoid them. Ideally, we would all be in long sleeved shirts, long pants and hats to limit our exposure. However, I realize we all get warm and shed down to short sleeves and shorts. So, we are exposed over many areas of our body. Stay on the trail and limit your time in the brush. Let’s be honest, one of the worst times for exposure is when nature calls. While we all want our privacy, try and select an area which is not totally brush covered. When you choose a place for lunch, try and select a more sunny location. Ticks hate the sun and like dark humid places. You will camp at one of the designated campsites which are all along the beach and have few ticks. At the end of the day, have someone check you over for ticks.

      The Sinkyone State Park is managed from Richardson Grove State Park which is on Highway 101, just south of Garberville, California. There is no official Sinkyone State Park office. The Richardson Grove park rangers do drive to the Usal Campground and check around that area. They also drive to the Needle Rock Visitor Center and check around that area. At Needle Rock Visitor Center, there are volunteer camp hosts. These people can assist hikers in an emergency and have radio contact with the park rangers. Some of them hike the Lost Coast trail, particularly the area between Jones Beach and Bear Harbor.

      Lost Coast Al

      • Andre 03.23.2015 at 12:40 PM #

        Hi Lost Coast Al,

        I posted a question a few days ago but no one replied… Do you know anything about current conditions on the trail?
        Me and my friend want to hike both sections this weekend (from Usal to Mattole, starting on Saturday and finishing on Sunday) and want to make sure we have the right gear, without overpacking. Is there cell reception anywhere on the trail? Any bailout opportunities in case of an emergency?

        Thank you in advance!

      • Lost Coast Trails 03.23.2015 at 7:52 PM #

        I don’t have reports of any problems on the trails so I will assume they are fine. Generally, there is no cell phone reception. However, in an emergency, I would try it. You might pick up a signal. The Needle Rock Visitor Center and Shelter Cove have people who can assist you in case of emergency. Otherwise, you need to hike out for help.

        Lost Coast Al

  21. Lost Coast Trails 03.25.2015 at 6:31 PM #

    Lost Coast Trails Followers

    When you read this posting, I will have passed this blog to Paul Seever, Park Ranger, BLM King Range National Conservation Area. I have decided not to volunteer at the Needle Rock Visitor Center anymore. I wanted someone who knows the trails firsthand to be maintaining this blog and answering your questions. I wish you all well and keep hiking!!

    Lost Coast Al

  22. Lost Coast Trails 03.30.2015 at 11:26 AM #

    Hi, My name is Paul Sever, I have been working as a Wilderness Ranger at the King Range National Conservation since 2009.

    I will be administering this site and answering any questions you may have.

    You can also check out my other site at

    Thanks, and look forward to hearing from you!


  23. Eric Randolph Gahm 04.15.2015 at 1:44 PM #

    Is there any decent camping along the route just south of the Mattole trailhead?
    We are old guys who will be getting a late start the first day, but we’d like to get a bit away from the car-camp.

  24. Erin 04.28.2015 at 12:43 PM #


    I am planning my first trip to N. California. I have about 2-3 days for hiking on the Lost Coast, but we will be tent camping and not backpacking. I am trying to decide whether we should hike Sinkyone or Kings Range. Being from Minnesota, I would like to see as much of the coast as possible. Is there day trails on both the North and South? If so which trails would you recommend and is it possible to do both in 2-3 days.

    I am also wondering about car camping. Are there campgrounds that are accessible in the area.

    Thanks for the help!


    • Erin 04.28.2015 at 12:46 PM #

      I forgot to mention I am planning the trip for the end of June. Also, wondering about accessibility with driving a Nissan Altima!

      • Lost Coast Ranger 05.03.2015 at 5:19 PM #

        There are many place to car camp in the area and yes, there are trails to day hike in both the King Range and the Sinkyone. Being that you are driving a vehicle with not much clearance I recommned that you stick to the paved roads. You can car camp at Mattole, Nadelos, or Wailaki campgrounds (king Range) and/or Usal Beach (Sinkyone). All campgrounds offer access to portions of the Lost coast Trail and other trails. I do recommned, however, that with your limited time frame you choose just one area to camp/explore as it would cost you a day of driving from one to the other.

  25. Andrew 05.06.2015 at 1:29 PM #

    I’ll be hiking Needle Rock to Wheeler campsite for a 3 day / 2 night trip (taking a day hike when at Wheeler). So spending two nights at Wheeler and hiking back to Needle Rock.

    The Sinkyone website from the Bureau of Land Management says that bear canisters are not required. I was wondering if that’s true or should I carry my food in a bear canister?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Lost Coast Ranger 05.11.2015 at 9:26 AM #


      Yes, this information is correct.
      However, I do highly recommend using a bear canister. Using the canister will help protect the bears from eating human food and becoming “food conditioned” (this is when they lose their fear of humans because they associate humans with an easy food source; this can lead to aggressive bear encounters). Also, it is a sure proof method for keeping your food from rodents and racoons.



  26. Amanda 05.07.2015 at 6:52 PM #

    Hi Paul,

    My friends and I are planning to hike the entire Lost Coast Trail in mid-June. We were wondering for planning purposes what permit availability would be like in the Southern section since you cannot reserve ahead of time and campsites are limited. We were also wondering if there are ample fresh water sources along the trail or if we need to plan to carry a lot of our own water. Any other general guidelines would be great! Thank you!


    • Lost Coast Ranger 05.11.2015 at 9:50 AM #


      There are several creeks in the Sinkyone so I do not think it will be necessary to carry “a lot” of your own water. That being said, you may want to start out with a lot and then adjust after the first day after you see what your personal needs are.

  27. Genevieve 05.18.2015 at 7:05 PM #

    Hi again,

    Approximately when does it get foggy for summer on the trail? I wasn’t able to make it in the early spring so am hoping for next week perhaps.


  28. Samuel 05.31.2015 at 7:13 PM #

    How’s the weather typically for trips in August? I have only hiked the Lost Coast in spring. Does a lot of the firewood get used up as the year progresses? Also, how important is hiking north to south in the summer or fall?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 05.31.2015 at 9:06 PM #

      Samuel and Genevieve,

      From May – September, the King Crest is normally warm and dry with temperatures reaching the 80’s – 90’s in mid-summer. At the base of the peaks, the King Range coastline sees less of the cool fog that characterizes much of northern California’s Coast, but coastal weather is still highly variable — one day may bring fog, drizzle and 60 degrees, while the next is a dry 85 degrees. Prepare for rapid weather changes by bringing plenty of clothing layers. Always carry rain gear on extended hikes. Summer winds along the King Crest and Lost Coast Trails are often very strong and erratic and typically from the NW.

  29. Jennifer J Barry 06.15.2015 at 6:35 PM #

    I am planning to hike the south portion “loop” trail that begins at Usal and will bring me back to Usal. I plan to turn south at Wheeler camp. My question is how many miles is this and does the trail south from wheeler have as many inclines as the 1st portion to wheeler has? Also, is the dirt road out to Usal camp an easy drive for a typical car?

  30. Jennifer J Barry 06.15.2015 at 6:38 PM #

    One more question… are permits available at the Usal camp trailhead?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 06.18.2015 at 1:21 PM #

      1. I have updated the Sinkyone Wildereness State Park section of this site. Please check that for information regarding mileage and trail descriptions.
      2. The road into Usal is manageable with a typical car during dry conditions.
      3. Yes, permits are availabel at the trailhead at Usal Campground

  31. Clara 06.26.2015 at 1:40 AM #

    Hi, my friends and I would like to hike a portion of the lost coast in early July and would love to have recommendations. We would like to do a loop (since the shuttle is quite expensive), either one day or two days. Would you have any recommendations for what to do / where to camp ?

    Thank you very much for your answer !


    • Lost Coast Ranger 06.30.2015 at 11:16 AM #

      Hi Clara,

      For any loops in the King Range I Highly recommend at least 3 days/2 nights. With only 1 -2 days available, doing an out and back hike from the same trailhead is your best option. The King Range has 9 trailheads you could start your hike from so I recommend you take a look at a map; be sure to look at mileage and elevation gain/loss and think about your groups skills and abilities. Let me know if you need any additional advice or have other questions.

  32. jturne12 06.28.2015 at 7:39 PM #

    Hi Paul,

    A couple of us are thinking of doing a Cooskie Creek trail-Lost Coast trail-Spanish Ridge trail loop over the 4th of July weekend and were wondering if you had any thoughts or tips on that route. It looks as though we would be mostly walking through grasslands at the higher elevations and we’re wondering if there’s anything we should take note of…especially regarding ticks, bears, snakes, etc.

    Thanks for you help!


    • Lost Coast Ranger 06.30.2015 at 11:31 AM #


      Yes, that route is all on grassy ridges. I think the #1 thing to be aware of is that the trail is very hard to follow at times. Cattle and wildlife trample over the trail and create additional trails; this combined with the fact that these trails do not have a lot of human traffic on them makes for a difficult trail to follow. You will need route finding skills and patience. There is NO water up there and it is HOT. BRING PLENTY OF WATER. Plan on needing additional time to hike that route because there is a very good possibility that you will lose the trail at times. Information regarding bears and ticks can be found on this webpage and on my other blog

  33. Tony 07.07.2015 at 5:11 PM #

    What section/segment would you recommend for a day hike ?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 07.08.2015 at 1:32 PM #

      Tony, there are many options for day hikes. Horse Mountain Creek down to the beach is fantastic. Mattole down to Punta Gorda lighthouse. Lightning trailhead to King Peak. Black Sands Beach to split rock. Needle Rock visitors center to Bear Harbor or the Jones Beach area…

      Check out a map

  34. hs 07.19.2015 at 5:52 AM #

    What do you think of the idea of using light snowshoes for the soft sand/loose pebbles where your feet would normally posthole?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 07.21.2015 at 10:21 AM #

      I think you will be better hiking with out the snowshoes. You won’t be pushing down into the sand (posthole) like you would in the snow. Many folks use Gators to help keep the sand out of their shoes, however.

  35. Alex 08.03.2015 at 9:43 PM #

    My siblings and I (4 people total) are planning to through hike the northern and southern sections in a couple weeks. Can you provide any info on the current availability of fresh water up there? I know there’s a drought and am wondering if there is enough water available for drinking throughout the hike. Thanks!!

  36. Adam Ziegler 08.07.2015 at 2:45 PM #

    Hello Lost Coast Ranger,

    We are thinking of parking at the Usal Beach Campground and leaving our car there while we get picked up and shuttled to Needle Rock, where we will begin our 3 day / 2 night backpacking trip back to Usal. Is it currently safe to leave our car there? (it will be there Sunday through Tuesday evenings). I heard it gets pretty wild at Usal on weekends. Is the road currently in a driveable state for a small clearance 2WD car? It looks like it’s been fairly dry.


    • Lost Coast Ranger 08.10.2015 at 10:47 AM #

      Hi Adam,

      I can’t say if it’s safe or not. A vehicle break-in can happen at any time. To help avoid this possibility DO NOT leave any valuables in your car.

      I haven’t been on the road to Usal in over a year. last I was there it was passable in a small clearance 2wd car – I assume the conditions are the same but I can’t attest with absolute certainty.

      • Cecily 08.12.2015 at 9:12 PM #

        Is it possible to park at the saddle creek trailhead?

      • Lost Coast Ranger 08.16.2015 at 1:06 PM #

        Hi Cecily,

        Yes, you can park at the Saddle Mountain Trailhead.


  37. Casey 08.12.2015 at 7:52 AM #


    I’m planning a backpacking trip with my wife the week before Labor Day. We’re hoping to get to the area around 7pm (Tuesday) and set up camp relatively soon, then spend the next two days and nights backpacking the area, getting back to our car on Friday around midday (without a shuttle). Do you have any suggestions for this trip? We’re interested in views, climbing mountains, being secluded and moderately relaxed hiking (traveling for about 8 hours a day and relaxing/cooking/exploring the rest). We’re both in good shape (although not like some of these mountain marathoner’s I’ve read about) and really enjoy physical activity and being out in the wild.

    Thanks in advanced for your help!

    • Lost Coast Ranger 08.16.2015 at 1:16 PM #


      You might be interested in doing a loop involving Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, Buck Creek Trail, King Crest Trail and the Lost Coast Trail. There are several trailheads you could start from to make this loop: Northslide Peak, Lightning, Saddle Mountain, or Black Sands Beach. This sounds like it could offer the experience you’re looking for. Look at a detailed trail map of the King Range to start planning your trip.

      Keep in mind elevation, mileage and water sources.

  38. Chris Goodwin 08.15.2015 at 9:25 PM #

    Hey Paul
    Doing a great job.
    I am thinking of parking at shelter cove and taking the shuttle to Mattole and then hiking both King and sinkyone to Usal.
    Can I then hire a shuttle to go from Usal to shelter cove?
    Can I resupply at Shelter Cove
    I know I have to fill out a permit for King’s at the trail head. I am hoping I don’t need to leave any thing on my car or should register at Shelter Cove?
    Then do I need a permit for Sinkyone? Is it the same thing I just fill out at trailhead or do I need to reserve ahead of time?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 08.16.2015 at 1:06 PM #

      Hi Chris,

      I have heard of the shuttle companies running from Usal to Shelter Cove but that is something you’ll need to arrange with them ahead of time (as with all of the shuttles). They are pretty booked up so the earlier you contact them the better.
      You do not need to leave anything on your car at the Black Sands Beach trailhead in Shelter Cove. Just fill out a wilderness permit and keep that in your possession.
      For the Sinkyone, you will also need to fill out a permit at the trailhead (no reservations). It does cost a bit of money so bring some cash with you.

  39. Mallory 09.01.2015 at 11:15 PM #

    Hi Paul,

    Great info here! Thanks so much! A couple quick questions – My group is planning to do a loop starting from the Black Sands Trailhead, up to Rattlesnake Ridge Trail to head inland, and then back out towards the ocean along King Crest Trail and Buck Creek Trail and along the beach back to Black Sands Trailhead.

    -Are there wilderness permits available at the Black Sands Trailhead? I have seen info about them being at the Mattole Trailhead, but not necessarily Black Sands.

    -We will be arriving at Black Sands Trailhead around 7 pm on Friday and hope to hike in a mile or two and set up camp. Do you know if there will be camping spots that close to the trailhead?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 09.02.2015 at 3:01 PM #

      Hi Mallory,

      Yes, you can obtain a wilderness permit at Black Sands Beach Trailhead. The parking will be up top and you will walk down to another very small parking lot before you drop down to the beach. At this second smaller lot you will find the permits at the kiosk.

      Yes, there is good camping about 1.5 miles north of the trailhead at Horse Mountain Creek. At minimum you need to camp north of Telegraph Creek (about 5-10 min walk north of the trailhead).

      • Mallory 09.02.2015 at 11:29 PM #

        Thank you for your quick reply!

  40. 11.03.2015 at 4:38 AM #

    I am planning to hike from Mattole to Usal next Summer/Fall and was curious about the campfire situation. I am under the impression that fires are acceptable as long as we leave “no trace” and are only legal in the fall/spring. Is this correct? Also, what about the firewood? I know some places you are not allowed to burn the natural deadwood in the area, are we allowed to on the Lost Coast Trail?

    Thank you,

    • Lost Coast Ranger 11.24.2015 at 12:24 PM #


      The campfire regulations are different for the King Range and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park:

      King Range NCA:

      Correct, campfires are not permitted in the King Range during summer months.

      1. Check current fire regulations. IF campfires are permitted: Use fire rings that already exist before building anything new.

      2. Burn only dead and downed wood that you can easily break by hand and that fits into the fire ring. Burning large diameter/lengthy pieces of wood breaks down the fire ring and spreads rock and ash all over the site.

      3. Foils and cans do not burn. Only put items into the fire that will completely burn in one sitting and pack out all other trash.

      4. Extinguish your campfire with abundant water and stir with a stick. Please do not put the fire out with sand – this fills the ring and makes it unusable for other visitors, which prompts them to build a new fire ring, multiplying the impacts.

      5. Gargantuan fire rings are a tremendous eye sore. If the fire isn’t warm enough for you – GET CLOSER to the fire.

      Sinkyone Wilderness State Park:

      This is what I found posted at the Needle Rock Visitors Center recently:

      Fires are permitted only in fire rings provided for that purpose. Collection of dead and downed wood is prohibited. Driftwood may be collected from the beach areas and used for firewood. Firewood is also available from the Needle Rock Visitors Center ($9.00).

  41. Mike V. 11.11.2015 at 4:58 PM #

    Hi Paul, We are looking for a couple of good hikes in the area over upcoming Thanksgiving permitting. About 6-10 miles (moderate to advanced OK) Loops preferred but up and back OK too. We don’t camp…enjoy the exercise, scenery, and listening to our kids (15&17) complain about hiking. Any advice. Thanks in advance.


    • Lost Coast Ranger 11.24.2015 at 12:31 PM #

      Hi Mike:

      1. Down Horse Mountain Creek Trail and back up (8.4 miles)

      2. Lightning Trail to King Peak (5.4 miles)

      3. Hidden Valley Trailhead – Lost Coast Trail – Chinquapin Loop (8.3 miles)

      4. Mattole Trailhead to Punta Gorda Lighthouse (6 miles)

What's On Your Mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers

%d bloggers like this: