The Lost Coast Trail is a wild and unique backpacking adventure along one of the most rugged sections of the Northern California Coast. The King Range area is nearly untouched by civilization, with only a few small towns along the two-hour shuttle from Shelter Cove to the Mattole Beach trailhead to the north. The trail provides incredible views, a variety of wildlife and flora, and a glimpse of some rarely seen California coastal terrain. Keep in mind that portions of this trip take a great deal of effort; the majority of the 25-mile, 3-day trip takes place on sandy beaches, which can be exhausting for legs and feet.
For the north to south route, you will need to take a shuttle either at the beginning or end of your trip. Shuttling at the beginning allows you to walk straight back to your car (at Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove). The shuttle will cost approximately $200 (for two people), and it will drop you off at the Mattole Beach Trailhead where you will begin your journey. Expect foggy mornings and possible rain any time of the year. You will walk beside sunning seals, sea birds and sea otters. Be sure to check out the century old Punta Gorda Lighthouse, which is a great spot to stop for lunch on your first day out.
The first day's hike is split between beaches and the trail that winds along the coastal cliff. You can camp anywhere, but do your best to stay in sites that already have camping impact.
The second day is mostly trail hiking with occasional river crossings. Try to keep your boots from getting wet! Sandals or river shoes can make these crossings less troublesome.
The third day brings you back to the beach. You will hike through deep sand that is slow going. It can be easy to miss the trailhead at Black Sands Beach, Shelter Cove, so keep a vigilant eye on your way out. Your shuttle driver will tell you what to look for.
Permits are required for this hike and any other overnight stay in the Kings Range Wilderness, and the numbers of hikers allowed to stay overnight vary between seasons. For more information and to obtain a permit, head to Recreation.gov.
NOTE: Carry a tidal chart with you, and always be aware of the tides and your location. There are two tidal zones along the trek that are impassible at high tide. You do not want to get stuck in a small cove with a rising tide. There are many campsites to choose from, so don't push yourself into a bad spot. Also, note that you will need a bear canister for this trip.