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About Black Sands Beach of Shelter Cove in Whitethorn, California

Black Sands Beach is the south end of a long walkable coastline that is over 20 miles long between the town of Shelter Cove and Mattole River Campground in Humboldt County. This shoreline trek known as The Lost Coast Trail takes backpackers north on the beach (and over some headlands) to numerous wilderness camp spots and remote places. Parts of this stretch are blocked at high tide so plan accordingly if you are backpacking.

The beach here is composed of black sand and pebbles that have been made smooth by rolling in the heavy surf at this remote location. Black sand beaches are rare in California and you might feel like you are on one of the beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii where they are common. Of course the cool air might bring you back to the reality of the Northern California coastline. If you plan to hike the shore, pack a windbreaker or puffy jacket to keep warm.

On Black Sands Beach you can walk either direction on the sand. To the north there is a lengthy beachcombing shoreline (go as far as you like) and to the south you’ll soon get to Little Black Sands Beach. This entire area is protected by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the King Range National Conservation Area.

To find the parking lot for Black Sand Beach just turn onto Beach Road from Shelter Cove Road. Getting to Shelter Cove requires an hour-long drive on twisty backroads from Highway 101 starting in the town of Garberville. The town of Shelter Cove (addresses are in Whitethorn, CA) is a wonderful place to visit and has several waterfront hotels to choose from. It’s definitely worth the long drive to get to.

911 Beach Rd
Whitethorn, CA 95589
Park Name
King Range National Conservation Area (BLM)
Other Names
Shelter Cove Black Sand Beach
Pet Details
No dogs allowed on the beach
Free parking and backcountry camping permits issued at trailhead
Beachcombing, Birdwatching, Beach Walking, Backpacking, Rockhounding
Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Black Sand, Viewpoint, Driftwood
Map of Black Sands Beach of Shelter Cove
Honeydew, US
7:59 pm, April 21, 2024
temperature icon 56°F
L: 49° H: 63°
Feels like 53.74 °F overcast clouds
Wind gusts: 5 m/s
UV Index: 0
Precipitation: 0 inch
Visibility: 10 km
Sunrise: 6:28 am
Sunset: 8:00 pm
Humidity 63 %
Pressure1014 mb
Wind 5 m/s

Nearby Beaches

Abalone Point

1 miles away

Abalone Point is a broad flat grass and wildflower covered bluff on the west side of the small town...

View beach

Nearby Attractions

Nearby Lodging


Rated 5.0 out of 5
2 review(s)
Very good0%
Rated 5.0 out of 5
July 10, 2023

The town of Shelter Cove in Humboldt County is a real hidden gem. There are a few beautiful beaches in the town but the most stunning is Black Sands Beach. It is broad and stretches for miles (it forms part of the Lost Coast trail). Just south of Black Sands Beach is Little Black Sands Beach where you can sit and watch the ocean break over rocks, check out for whales spouting, and see seals playing in the waves. Great place for a picnic.

The Cove Beach runs from the boat ramp on the southern end of the town and it is great for taking a long easy walk. At low tide the beach is very broad and flat.

Views from all of the beaches are excellent.

The town has some very good restaurants. Gyppo Ale Mill is the western-most microbrewery in the US and they have delicious food like burgers and fish and chips to accompany great beers. Mi Mochima Venezuelan restaurant makes empanadas that are “slap-your-mama” good, and a perfect view of the ocean. I just love the place. (lots of good accommodations too)

Rated 5.0 out of 5
February 10, 2023

Black Sands Beach is so beautiful and like nothing I’ve seen before. If you visit Shelter Cove, which I highly recommend, you should definitely visit this beach! We loved the two nights we spent there and didn’t want to leave. The 45 minute winding drive down to Shelter Cove is so worth it. We had lodging right on the bluff and a delicious seafood dinner each night. Put it on your bucket list!