Itching for a remote and scenic experience along the California Coast? Sinkyone Wilderness State Park might be the best way to scratch that itch. This state park is one of the most remote coastal stretches along the Pacific Coast of California.
The best way to see this park is to drive the Usal Road from Highway 1 near Westport north to the hidden coastal town of Shelter Cove. That is a 35 mile drive that includes 24 miles of rugged dirt roads that are impassible when wet and closed all winter. If you have a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle (not just all-wheel-drive) and are up for the challenge, then this road trip is for you. Waiting until the roads are dry and have been cleared later in the summer is a good idea.
Trailheads along the way lead to remote dark sand beaches. Only one of the beaches can be driven to and that is Usal Beach which has a campground and attracts Jeep groups in the summer months.
Another way to see this park is by hiking The Lost Coast Trail. Backpackers on this trail will pass by each of the beaches in the park and will have to camp in the wilderness camps along the way. It’s a long trek of about 13 miles on this meandering and undulating trail from Usal Beach to the visitor center.
The only visitor center in the park is the Needle Rock Visitor Center on the north end. It’s in a 1920’s house and has information and exhibits on the park and the trail. A herd of Roosevelt elk are sometimes spotted roaming around the property. Three of the beaches in the park are easy to access from the visitor center. To find get there, drive west on Briceland Thorn Road for 28 paved miles from Garberville on Highway 101.
Prepare for foggy cool coastal weather in Northern California. This is a rugged mountainous area and the ocean air collides with the hillsides often creating foggy or rainy conditions.
This park is not a simple day trip from the highway. If you are not camping at one of the campgrounds, you’ll need a hotel. There are several great hotels in Shelter Cove too just keep in mind that they are a long twisting drive from Highway 101. On the coast south of the park, Westport has a couple more hotel and bed & breakfast options.
See the map above and the list below of the seven sandy beaches in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. For more info and a map of Usal Road, see the state park page.