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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 and it has several beaches that you can drive to and others that require backpacking.

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 in the summer is a good idea.

Trailheads along the way lead to remote dark sand beaches, but only one of the beaches along Usal Road can be driven to, and that is Usal Beach which has a campground too. Driving on Usal Beach used to be allowed (really tolerated), but the state parks department has decided to stop it despite the backlash from Jeep groups who camped there and played on the beach with their rigs.

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 shelter at 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. Note that the north end of The Lost Coast Trail is not in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, but if you are interested, it begins in the town of Shelter Cove which is home to the famous Black Sands Beach.

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 relatively 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.