The lost coast is a stretch of coastline in northern California between Mattole and Shelter cove. The hike is 24 miles or so of mostly untouched coast. Plus if you get bored, you can hike to the tip of King’s peek, 4008 feet above sea level where you start ... at sea level. To get a better idea on location, think of the redwood forests and then go north 50 miles and 22 miles to the sea.
My specific version of the hike was pretty straight forward. I drove up on a Friday and camped at a site in the King Range forest about 6 miles from the trail head. Then I woke up in the morning, grabbed a permit and started out from the shelter cove trail marker.
I proceeded to walk up the beach for another 8 miles or so passing some pretty interesting features. The most complicated feature was the stream. It was water from the mountains dumping into the ocean. Sometimes streams were so small they didn’t even make it to the water. I would simply watch the wet sand soak up the liquid like a sieve and watch the water transfer under the surface. On the other hand, I also encountered streams that were un-crossable without getting wet. These required me to of course, ford the river. After taking my shoes off and putting them on again three times, I tried to avoid this at all costs. Most streams consisted of a simple hop, or log, or series of rocks to avoid any removal of shoes.
The wildlife was also extremely active. I saw a multitude of sea lions swimming by the sea. They were on rocks and also floating peacefully around them, presumably gaining protection from predators. One sea lion in particular was on land and about to jump into the sea. If you check out the pictures, you can grab a shot of him. I also saw sea gulls and vultures. Unfortunately, the best vulture shots were found around a dead sea lion, but what else would you expect. In the sand itself, the remnants of a couple star fish and a crab were seen hanging around. And then once you got into the woods off the beach, there were turkeys, bears and even rattle snakes, but fortunately I only saw the turkeys.
The trickiest part of the hike had to be understanding tides. At some points along the trail, the tides will come in and make the parts impassible as seen in the trail map below. What this meant was I had to bring a trail map and there was no dawdling behind. As long as the tides were below 5 feet though, I had no issue and kept on going.
At the end of the trail, I set up camp and spent the night. I enjoyed a gorgeous panorama of the ocean and minus a stiff breeze early in the evening, woke up cool and refreshed for another fun journey home. I did try to hike up to the top of kings peak, but got lost where the trail had to cross a stream and in the end gave up so that I didn’t have to do the 5 hour drive home in the dark. I guess it leaves something for next time though!
20 miles total, oodles of fresh air, and peace from the world I left behind, it was a perfect trip.