The Lost Coast Trail | CA, USA, 2014

Distance: 53 miles (85 km)P1000020

Avg. Time:  4 -5 days

Start/Finish:

  • Usal CampgroundSouthern trailhead, situated at the bottom end of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. I reached this point via a combination of hitching and walking from the town of Garberville (via Redway, Whitethorn & Four Corners). From the latter, I headed south on foot via the little used 4WD Usal Road until I reached the campground of the same name. For those with private transport, an easier way of getting to Usal would be by taking Mendocino Country Road 431 for six miles from the junction with Highway 1.
  • Mattole Beach – Northern trailhead; easy access with private transport via a combination of Highway 101 & 211 via Ferndale and Petrolia.For more details on getting to and from the trailheads see Summitpost.org

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Season:

  • All year

Maps/Info :

  • Maps: I used two maps. For the southern section from Usal to Needle Rock Visitors Center I used the Wilderness Press Lost Coast Map. For the northern section from Needle Rock to Mattole Beach, I used the BLM map. The former actually covers both sections, but it lacks the detail of the latter.

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  • Tides: Before setting out on the northern section you will need to check on current tide times. There are various stretches between Shelter Cove and Mattole which are impassable at high tide. Tide tables can be picked up at the Chamber of Commerce in Garberville, the BLM office in Whitethorn or the General Store in Shelter Cove (if you are hiking northbound).
  • Bear Canisters: Officially speaking you are required to carry a bear canister when hiking in the Kings Range National Conservation Area (i.e. the northern section).
  • Weather: The Lost Coast has a reputation for inclement conditions; this is not the sort of place you want to be rocking up to with a trash bag rain coat and a blase, “it’ll be ok, it’s not going to rain” attitude.
  • Resupply: The Shelter Cove General Store is situated on the road between Black Sands Beach and the Hidden Valley Traihead. It has a decent range on offer; more than enough to suffice for the second half of your hike.

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Route/Conditions:

  • Direction: The following route description is from south to north, which was the way I hiked it. Most people seem to go in the other direction in order to avoid walking into the wind, which generally comes from the northwest.
  • Southern Lost Coast: The less frequented southern section from Usal Beach to the Hidden Valley Trailhead, is an undulating trail that passes through forested canyons and up, over and along scenic ridges. It is overgrown in parts and ticks can be an issue. I pulled at least a dozen of the little blighters off me on the first day.

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  • Connector Section: Upon reaching the Hidden Valley Trailhead, there is a road walk (3.5 miles) to Black Sands Beach, from where you continue north along the coast. It is on this short stretch that the Shelter Cove General Store is situated (see Resupply above).
  • Northern Lost Coast: From Black Sands Beach to the northern terminus of Mattole Beach, the hiker sticks to the coast. A combination of sand, rocks and the occasional stretch along grassy terraces overlooking the Pacific.

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Sleeping:

  • No huts or shelters. Bring a tent or tarp. Can be a little on the wet and windy side at times, however, there are plenty of sheltered campsites where you can escape the brunt of the elements.

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Highlights:

  • Pacific Ocean: Tide skirting, rock hopping, sand shuffling and ocean gazing along the length of the northern section.
  • Wildlife: Loads of sea lions, a large herd of Roosevelt Elk, seals, seagulls and cormorants. Unfortunately I didn’t see any migrating grey whales or black bears, although both species are commonly spotted by Lost Coast hikers.
  • Redwoods: Just inland from the trail is Humboldt State Park, known for its magnificent Redwood forest. After finishing my hike at Mattole Beach, I walked and hitched my way up to Humboldt, where I spent the next couple of days wandering amongst these incredible trees. Highly recommended.

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