Kings Range National Conservation Area

The Lost Coast Trails

The Lost Coast Trail

Hiking & Visiting the Kings Range National Conservation Area

King Range Wilderness Permit

The permit serves multiple purposes. It serves as a way to get essential information to you and to ultimately reduce impacts to the wilderness environment. It is also a tool to locate lost/missing hikers. For example, if we notice a vehicle has been sitting at a trailhead for an unusual amount of time (or, more likely, we receive a call from a worried family member) we can try to find a permit with a matching license plate number. Based on what they indicated on their permit we can determine how many people are in their group, where they planned to go, and when they planned to come out of the wilderness (always tell someone the details of your plans but give some wiggle room so they don’t start to worry if you’re a few hours late). For the King Range, the wilderness permit also serves as your campfire permit. When you sign the permit you,

“…agree to follow the guidelines for overnight camping in the King Range backcountry, especially regarding the use of bear-proof canisters, backcountry sanitation, and the use of fire.”

Currently, we have free self-service permits that you can pick up at any of the trailheads or at our office in Whitethorn (768 Shelter Cove Road). Please take a few moments before your trip to fill one out AND read it over front to back with ALL members of your party.

The group size limit is 15 people

Special Recreation Permit

All organized and commercial groups accessing the King Range NCA need to obtain a BLM Special Recreation Permit (SRP).

Organized groups:

  • An organized group (i.e. Boy Scouts or local Sierra Club) trip where charges are limited to sharing of group expenses.  No paid staff accompany the group, and fees do not offset other costs of running the organization.

Commercial groups:

  • Under BLM policy, if any person, organization or company makes or attempts to make a profit, salary, increase their business or financial standing, or supports in any part, other programs or activities from amounts rendered to participants, the use will be considered commercial and subject to commercial permit fees.

No SRP required:

Individual or family use, as well as non-organized group use does not require a special recreation permit.  Groups are considered non-organized when no formal advertising of the trip occurs, no fees are charged, and the group is not affiliated with any established organization.

For more information visit:

If you have any questions as to your group’s status, or to request a SRP application packet, please contact the King Range Project Office at 707-986-5400.


When campfires are permitted (fall, winter and spring) please use existing fire rings and keep the fire small by using only small pieces of wood that you can break by hand. This helps contain the fire in the ring, helps to keep the campsites clean and reduces fire danger. Larger pieces of wood tend to spread ash outside of the ring and break down its perimeter. In turn, this leads to an eye sore for other visitors and encourages them to build another fire ring – multiplying the impacts. Please put your fire out with plenty of water with the soak and stir method. It should be cool to the touch by the time you’re done.

Additionally, glass, cans and plastic don’t burn. Please pack out all trash! The campfire ring is not a trashcan.


Bear-Proof Food Storage

The number ONE thing you can do to respect wildlife in the King Range is to have a bear canister and to use it properly. You will notice on top of the Garcia Backpackers’ Cache it says, “Save the bears” (it does not say, “Save your food”).

savethe bears

So, what does this mean? When a bear starts to eat human food and learns that humans can be associated with an easy meal they will lose their fear of humans, come around campsites more often, and become increasingly aggressive. This is what you would call a “habituated” or “food conditioned” bear and they could eventually need to be put down if the aggression gets out of hand.

Hanging your food is NOT an option in the King Range and on the Lost Coast Trail. You may be experienced with hanging food but there is a serious lack of sufficient trees on the LCT. Requirements for hanging food vary from place to place but generally 10’ high and 4’ from the base of the tree would be sufficient. You are not going to be able to achieve this on the LCT.

All overnight visitors must store all of their food, toiletries and scented items (Including trash!) in a hard-sided bear-proof container approved by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG). We rent out the Garcia bear can here at the BLM Project Office in Whitethorn for $5 for your entire journey. You will need a credit card and a drivers licensed (if you don’t return the bear can you will buy it). We are open Monday-Friday 8-4:30.

Other places to rent cans (call for availability, hours and prices):

BLM Arcata Field Office (same hours and prices as the Whitethorn office)

1695 Heindon Rd. Arcata


Shelter Cove General Store

7272 Shelter Cove Rd. Whitethorn


HSU center Activities


Petrolia General Store


REI also rents bear cans

Lastly, there are two other critters that the bear can is good for: the raccoon and the mouse. They will tear a hole through your pack for a single peanut.

Do yourself a favor AND help protect the animals in the king range by getting a bear can.


Human Waste:

The steep and rocky cliffs along the trail and at the major drainages/camping areas make finding a place to go 200 feet away from campsites, trails, and drinking water sources (standard Leave No Trace practice) nearly impossible – therefore, we have found that the ocean is the best place to dispose of human waste (while on the coastal trail).


Dispose of your solid human waste in the wet sand near the ocean (intertidal zone) or as close to the wet sand as you can safely get. Dig a hole at least 6-8 inches, make your deposit, and cover it up. (The ocean is not a drinking water source).

Upon the next high tide your waste will be obliterated. Problem solved.

Now, many folks may be a bit bashful about squatting “out in the open” on the beach. But, in my years of doing just that I have found that privacy has not been an issue. If I’m camped near a creek all I need is a few minutes to walk north or south on the beach to find a corner I can go around and usually a rock, log, or a dip in the sand to crouch behind.

You can put your toilet paper in the hole too but if you can manage to pack it out then that is even better. ALL feminine hygiene products (e.g. tampons, etc.) must ALWAYS be packed out.

Wherever you are – on the coast or inland – you must dig a hole for your waste. Putting a rock on top is not burying it! Think about it this way: you should feel comfortable sitting on top of where you just made your deposit – it should be that well buried.

On all other trials in the King Range BURY YOUR WASTE at least 200 feet (70 paces) from campsites, trails, and drinking water sources (creeks).

arrowDo Not Make Deposits Here. GO TOWARDS THE OCEAN

Tides and Tide Tables

You need to have a map, a tide chart and know where the  4 “impassable during high tide” sections of trail are. Pass through these areas on a receding tide: start passing through 2-3 hours before the time that low tide is indicated on your tide chart; This is the low point and the tide will start to rise after this.

Check the tide predictions 

The impassable at high tide sections of trail are:

  1. Punta Gorda
  2. Sea Lion Gulch to Randall Creek
  3. Miller Flat to about one mile south of Buck Creek
  4. South of Shelter Cove is Point No Pass. This is impassable at ALL tide levels. Do Not Attempt. If you plan to hike from Shelter Cove to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park catch the Lost Coast Trail at Hidden Valley (The trailhead is on Chemise Mountain Road, off of Shelter Cove Road).

Generally, GENERALLY, during calm ocean/weather conditions the impassable zones become impassable at about 3-3.5 feet. BUT,  this isn’t necessarily always the case. This number can be much lower during stormy or hazardous marine conditions when the swell/periods increase.

Check the ocean conditions

Here are some explanations I found to help you figure out what these numbers mean:

“What this means to you… The longer the period, the more potential for a larger wave.

A swell with 5ft @ 7 (swell A) seconds and a swell with 5ft @ 12 (swell B) seconds can be much different.

What happens is the wave rolls through in the open ocean… when it approaches shallow waters is starts to feel the ocean bottom. As it does this, the wave becomes bigger and bigger before it topples over and breaks. The longer the wavelength (or period), the more chance for the wave to build up before it topples over.”

Just because it is low tide does not necessarily mean that you will be able to cross through the “impassable at high tide” sections of trail safely.

You will need to LOOK, SEE, and OBSERVE what the ocean is doing for yourself.

Don’t take my word for it – don’t take anyone’s word for it. There are no guarantees in the Wilderness.

Use caution when traveling on the Lost Coast. The best tools you have are your senses and your mind. If you have to wait it out – wait it out. If you have to turn back – turn back. Are you prepared for this? Are you prepared to spend another day or more if you have to? How important are goals and planned schedules to maintain when you could be putting yourself or others in the way of harm?

King Range Information

The BLM has two offices which can provide information as well as their website. The King Range Project Office is located on Shelter Cove Rd. just one quarter mile after passing the Whitethorn Post Office. Both offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm.

Arcata Field Office
1695 Heindon Rd.
Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 825.2300
King Range Project Office
PO Box 189 (physical address: 768 Shelter Cove Rd.)
Whitehorn, CA 95589
(707) 986.5400


Detailed color maps of the King Range are available for $5.00 each from the Arcata Field Office.  To order a map by mail please send your request and a check payable to “USDI BLM” and send to:

Bureau of Land Management
Arcata Field Office
1695 Heindon Road
Arcata, CA  95521

For credit card orders call (707) 825-2300.

Do not include sales tax in your purchase as BLM does not collect sales tax.

Private Property

Several privately owned cabins exist along the King Range portion of the Lost Coast trail and are not for public use. BLM does not maintain any facilities along this trail. Please respect private property rights.


8 Responses to “Kings Range National Conservation Area”

  1. jonfoose 05.20.2016 at 4:15 PM #

    What’s the distance of this northern section of the Lost Coast Trail?

  2. Harris Barnard 05.31.2016 at 9:15 AM #


    I left my camera at BUCK CREEK CAMPGROUNDS Sunday, May 29th of Memorial Day Weekend. It was sitting on a rock by the creek that feeds into the ocean in front of Buck Creek. Please let me know if you or anyone saw it or have any information.

    Thank you!

  3. Tien Tran 02.04.2017 at 9:12 PM #

    HI Casey, what time of year did you hike this trail. We plan to hike this in 3 weeks but i worry about the tide and winter storm. Any recommendation?

    • Lost Coast Ranger 02.07.2017 at 7:10 AM #

      You’re going to run into very high creek waters.. Dangerous and hazardous to cross. Possibly heavy rains. High swells.

      It’s been a wet winter and continues to be so. Although it’s hard to predict 3 weeks out you may want to consider going later in the season.

  4. Dinu 02.21.2017 at 9:31 PM #

    Do you think that with the current winter weather conditions, it would be a safe & practical option to plan to do this hike during the second week of March this year? Would the water at the creek crossings generally be too high at this time during the year? And are the access roads, (coming from the San Francisco Area), still open? I think it might be more practical to hold off until later in the season, but unsure if it’s a necessity.

    • Lost Coast Ranger 02.22.2017 at 10:00 AM #

      Definitely hold off until later in the season. The creeks will most likely be impassible or at least extremely dangerous.


  1. Overview of the Lost Coast Trail, California | Hike Now, Work Later - 09.11.2015

    […] Lost Coast Trails Blog Great information and general tips on the trail. […]

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