The Lost Coast Trail is a popular summer backpacking route along the shoreline of a remote region in Northern California. The trail meanders along the foot of high mountains in the King Range in southern Humboldt County and northern Mendocino County. This terrain is so rugged that no paved roads exist along the shore for more than 50 miles except at Shelter Cove near the midpoint of the trail. The good news is that this route can be broken up into three different segments.
The first segment is from Usal Beach near Westport north to Needle Rock Visitor Center in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park (22 miles). It’s a rocky steep shoreline here so the trail doesn’t follow the beach. Instead it rises and dips along the foothills with backcountry camps and beach access points along the way.
The middle segment goes north from Needle Rock to the town of Shelter Cove (9 miles). It’s the shortest section and probably the least traveled. The trail climbs up over Chemise Mountain (2598 feet) and ends at a trailhead on the road to Shelter Cove.
The northern segment starts on Black Sands Beach and continues north to the end at Mattole Beach on the Mattole River (25 miles). This route is probably the most popular as it follows a sandy beach for most of the way. Traveling this path requires timing it to avoid high tide when the beach is all wet and impassable.
Above is a map of the beaches and camps along the Lost Coast Trail. Below is information you’ll need before planning a hiking or backpacking trip on the trail.
- Weather can be windy and damp at any time, even in the summer. Pack accordingly and prepare for the worst.
- Sneaker waves can be deadly. These waves are much larger than normal and can knock you down then pull you into the ocean. Always keep an eye on the ocean and only stop to rest at the upper part of the slope.
- Ticks are common on this entire route and can cause Lyme Disease or other tick-borne illnesses if bitten. Take precautions to avoid bites.
- Rattlesnakes are common too but they are easier to see and hear than ticks. Still watch where you step even when near the beach.
- Bears and raccoons are a problem in campsites so bear canisters are required.
- Poison oak is another common problem. Know how to identify the plant and watch for it everywhere you go.
- Potable water is unavailable in most areas so you must bring water or water purification means and know where water sources are.
Links for more information:
The northern half is in the King Range National Conservation Area which is administered by the BLM (park map). They have different rules and permit requirements.
For free topo maps of the region, we recommend using TopoZone.
More info on the LCT can be found at the Lost Coast Interpretive Association website.
Beaches on this map
Mattole Beach is at the sandy mouth of the Mattole River at the north end of King Range National Conservation Area. This remote area is reached via a long winding […]
Punta Gorda Lighthouse along the Humboldt County Coast is nearly a four mile walk on the beach from the Mattole River Beach parking area. The beach trail is part of […]
Spanish Flat Beach in King Range National Conservation Area is a coastal backpacking camp along the Lost Coast Trail in Humboldt County. This is a driftwood-covered spot where Spanish Creek […]
Big Flat Beach is a backpacking stop along the Lost Coast Trail in Humboldt County. Big Flat and Miller Flat make up this wide sandy, rocky, driftwoody spot at the […]
Black Sands Beach is the south end of a long walkable coastline that is over 20 miles long between Shelter Cove to Mattole River Campground. The Lost Coast Trail takes […]
Shelter Cove Beach is a long dark sand beach on the south side of the town of Shelter Cove. This is the beach at the Shelter Cove Boat Launching Facility. […]
Jones Beach is located below Jones Beach Camp on the bluff between two creek drainages in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Jones Beach Camp is an environmental tent campsite along the […]
Needle Rock Beach is near the Needle Rock Visitor Center at Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. From the visitor center walk back on the road a bit to the old wooden […]
Bear Harbor Beach is a little south-facing beach in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. This dark sand beach is somewhat protected from wind and waves rolling onshore from the west. During […]
Wheeler Beach is a hike-in only beach located near Wheeler Camp in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park along the North Mendocino Coast. The beach is in a small cove where Jackass […]
Little Jackass Creek Beach is a hike-in only beach located in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The smallish dark sandy beach here sits in a cove at the mouth of Little […]
Anderson Beach is a hike-in beach in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The Lost Coast Trail starts at Usal Beach at the south end of the park and meanders north for […]
Usal Beach at Usal Campground is the southernmost beach in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park along the Mendocino North Coast. It’s a remote dark sand beach that’s over a mile long […]