Lost Coast Trail

>”Along the northern coast of California, civilization has left its mark on all but the most rugged or remote stretches of coastline known as The Lost Coast.”

I had heard rumours and seen a few pictures of this wild trail that runs along some of the most remote coastline in all of the country. They called it “The Lost Coast”, apparently back when they were building the Pacific Coast Highway they got all the way from San Diego to this region, took one look, and went inland. The pacific ocean butts up directly against the Kings Range mountains in a rare geo-logical feature that contains extreme terrain, extreme weather, and extreme danger. Sounds right up my alley. The Lost Coast Wilderness Area is located in Humboldt County.

Untouched by major highways and towns, the name is well earned because it can only be accessed by a few back roads leading out of Shelter Cove in the south and Mattole in the north. The trail runs 25 miles from Mattole Beach to Black Sands Beach. No development except for a few hermit cabins and a small fly-in surf camp.

I posted up on a backpackingmessage board that I was looking to hike and needed a ride to the trailhead. A fellow took me up on the offer and 2 days later we were in his truck headed to the trailhead. Stopped at the ranger office for a permit and a mandatory bear canister (Bears on the beach??)

Took the tire pressure monitoring system, checked my car tires and headed out as soon as I could. Arrived at the trailhead around sunset, planned to mash 3 miles to the Punta Gorda lighthouse. We had heard rumor that you could camp inside the lighthouse itself.

Walking along the beach and came across this bro taking a dirt nap

A few small stream crossings and one large creek crossing got the hike started, passed a hermit cabin, some beach walking, sun went down, got out the headlamps and pressed on.

Got the lighthouse and scoped out the area. We climbed up to the top of the lighthouse, found it was perfect size for 2 sleeping bags and setup camp.

Had a nice homemade FreezerBag meal of salmon, curry, and rice and started reading a bit of history of the Lighthouse we were now sleeping in. Built in 1910 after a ship wrecked just offshore killing 80 people in the violent storms that plague this coast. The sea was so rough they had to run a metal cable from the shore to an off-shore schooner and ferry the goods across the reefs. Pretty wild listening to the waves crash the shoreline and imagine 100 years ago some crazy ass dudes building this structure I am in sleeping in.

Morning time from our Castle

We packed up camp and headed out of the lighthouse to continue the hike.

The trail winded up from the beach onto the cliffs above making for some nice landscape shots. Unfortunately the sun blew-out a bunch of them.

Rocks with various birds on the left and Sea Lions to the right. They were barking up a storm.

The terrain was varied between sand, loose pebbles, talus, large boulders etc. Definitely a good ankle workout

One thing I should mention is the tides. When hiking this trial you need to be aware of the high and low tides. There are 3 sections of the trail between 1-5 miles long where the cliffs on the left and ocean on the right will trap you during hightide. People have been caught and killed trying to skirt the tide here.

Lots of life in the tide pools

Catching some rare Lost Coast sunshine

Lots of evidence of the rough seas along the shoreline, tons of old boat parts, commercial shipping equipment, and other various wreckage scatter the beach.

More waterfalls

stopped for lunch, worlds biggest bear canister. Damn thing was massive and took up 1/4 of my pack, probably added an extra 5LB to my baseweight as well

After about 7 miles the beach turned into a large flat

Beautiful cliffs

Eventually the trail lead back towards the beach and across this “boneyard” of huge driftwood logs littering the shoreline

We spot a sweet looking shelter in the distance

Hells yes, It has a roof, fire-pit, plenty of wood, even an old buoy to kick around. Good old productive backpackers. We shall call it home for the night. Best of all. Beach front property!

For some reason we decided to bring a kite with us on the hike?? Oh well, no better time to use it then now!

Me and the Dragon are out!

Lauren took a crack at it

Time to settle in

Great sunsets

A lone shrimp trawler

Packed up in the morning, We ended up sleeping outside the tent by the fire and watched the stars all night.

Heres a quick snap of the bed area in that shelter

Now with free wood pillow upgrade!

Misty mornings as we pass another hermit cabin on the trail

Place is spooky in the early fog, we were lucky to hit this coast at a rare time for nice weather. Normally there is only a small window of opportunity during the summer months to hit this hike without being fogged/rained in. To find 65F days and 45F nights with no rain in January is unheard of.

The latest in trail fashions

Patrick the starfish

Patricks gimp cousin

Fog burns off and reveals another gorgeous day on the lost coast.

We come across a large lump in the ditch, I move in for closer investigation.

Looks like a skinned deer, not much left for the vultures. I am assuming man did this due to the clean cut on the belly of that deer?

Big Flat Surf Camp – Hike in with your surfboard on your back for about 15 miles or charter a small plane to land you out on the beach. Note the old windsock for the planes

Crappy shot of some surfers, aside from 2 guys on dirtbikes these were the only other humans we saw for 4 days. Just the way I like it.

Large creek crossing at Big Flat Creek, water was cutting pretty fast eroding the sandy shoreline

Stumbled upon an awesome hammock made out of old fishing nets and drifwood

Continuing on the trail, negotiating some dry falls

Mind the tides

A little Sea otter sitting on top of rock AKA a SeaRat

After about 7 more miles we arrived at Oak creek and refilled on water

Were walking along and see some strange looking footprints…

Thats a big ass paw

Guess carrying that canister around wasnt such a bad idea after all!

March on

We arrive at Big Buck Creek, our last camp of the trip. We hike up the bluffs and make camp quickly to go enjoy the sunset

I think we were looking at a rolly-poley or something

Just after I finished snapping this photo I was getting up to head back to camp and saw something….

Lauren saw it as well. I am 95% certain I saw a WOLF running down the beach. Apparently they are slowly starting to repopulate the West after hunters/farms/the govt killed them off back in the late 1800’s. They are very rare, I am going to call up the BLM and let them know. It was three times as big as any coyote I ever seen, and it sure wasn’t anyone’s German Shepard running around in the middle of balls ass nowhere


Camera batteries died right after this and alas our story ends here as well. Woke up the next day to a cold and wet morning, packed up our stuff and hiked the last 5 miles in the rain back to the car. Looks like we squeezed all the good weather we could manage out of the Lost Coast.

It was an EPIC trip and I highly recommend you take it, Make sure you get good weather though, it would be a shame to take this hike and not enjoy the beauty of it.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • email