Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
50.00 ft (15.24 m)
Trail type
24.60 mi (39.59 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Beautiful landscape. Only backpackers. Wildflowers. Plenty of water.


Long shuttle ride. Hard on legs and feet. Many river crossings.

Trailhead Elevation

10.00 ft (3.05 m)


Backcountry camping
Whale watching
Bird watching
Big vistas

Typically multi-day




A unique experience with breathtaking views.
This was a incredible backpacking trip! I wish I could have spent many weeks exploring the King Range. We parked at the Mattole Beach Trailhead and backpacked down to Shelter Cove. We refueled at the general store in Shelter Cove and then headed back on the trail for Mattole. I highly suggest backpacking there and back if you have the time. Hiking on sand is hard and is a different type of challenge than hiking up a mountain. I suggest a waterproof pair of hiking boots, or a good pair of sandals that will not cause blisters. My favorite location on the trail was Spanish Flat. This area was where I truly felt like I was in the wild and away from it all. There were fresh bear tracks on the beach, a sea otter in the stream, and deer watching us from above on the hillside. If you're taking your pup with you, plan ahead! I read a lot of posts where people had issues with there dogs paws and hiking through the sand. I purchased dog booties for my pup just in case, but did not end up using them. My pup had no issues, but I do suggest having booties as an option. As long as you are plan ahead, check the weather, have a tide chart, and make good decisions, you will have a wonderful time on this trek.
We combined a trip up on the high ridges of King Wilderness and down on the sand and rock of the Lost Coast. We hiked 20 miles for the day, about 5 miles on the sand and rock of the Lost Coast trail, and could not wait to start on a firm trail even though we had close to 2000 ft of climbing ahead of us. My daughter and I were both struggling to understand how anyone could speak fondly of walking 20+ miles on the black sand and small rounded rocks. It was the closest thing to a forced march that I have encounter. We would not recommend this trail.
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