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Petrolia, California, United States

The Lost Coast Trail

A 24 mile three day backpacking trip along California's most undeveloped stretch of shoreline.

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 (9 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 24 miles / 39 km
Duration: Multiple days
Overview: The Lost Coast is an 80 mile stretch of the California coast where the builders of Highway 1 decided to go around because it was too rough. That left this coast all to us backcountry folks as the cars, the people, and the noise keeps a good distance away. This trip takes you down 24 miles of the Lost Coast starting at Mattole and ending at Black Sands Beach.

This is a one way hike, so you need to shuttle a car to the end and then drive to the beginning. If you don't want to bring two cars, a shuttle service will pick you up at Black Sands Beach and shuttle you and your gear to Mattole (about 2 hours driving away) so you can hike back to your car.

Tips: This is a one way hike, so bring a car to shuttle.
A shuttle exists for $$$ See the links for details.
Buy a map and a tide table for the region. Or print the tide table. Some areas are not passible at high tide and you want to plan your hiking times. Or, just hike until you can't and rest there.
Bear Canisters are mandatory on this trip. Yes, there are bears.
Bring some sandals for stream crossings and high tide point walk arounds.
Bring extra socks. You will get wet! The waves catch you now and then as hiking on wet sand is easier than on dry sand so you try to skirt the border.
Bring wet weather gear as it can get bitter cold and wet if the wind picks up and blows the fog.
Bring a tent, as everything is wet in the morning. Cover everything you don't want soaked.

Points of Interest


Mattole Trailhead

This is the start of the trip! Starting from here and hiking South keeps the wind at your back as you hike. You start off on course beach sand and the footing is not good. You quickly get a hint of how tough this trip is going to be.

There is a bathroom here and a water spigot to fill your bottle.

You must fill out a free backcountry permit here and hang the tag on your backpack.

Start Hugging The Beach

After the first stretch hiking between dunes, you come out onto the beach next to the cliffs for some beautiful hiking.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse

An old abandoned lighthouse.

Impassable at High Tide

This rock juts right out into the water at high tide and the waves beat on it. We were here about an hour after high tide and sat and rested for about a half hour. Some braver souls came along and got around, so we followed. You'll get wet (I did!) but there is not much to go till the first night's campsite.

First Night's Campsight

This is Cooskie Creek, a great place to camp the first night. You can move in out of the wind and camp near the creek for water. There are good sites on both sides of the river.

Second Day of Hiking

This stretch is all beautiful with so many different surfaces to hike on. You find yourself analyzing the surface you are walking on. There is fine sand, which is tough walking, pebbles which are worse, rocks, which are alright, and big rocks which are treacherous! Take your time and enjoy the hike.

Second Night's Campsite

This is a nice big wide open area with plenty of camp sites. There are shelters built up along the ocean and flat areas inland where you can get out of the wind. There's also fresh water from the stream.

Pacific Ocean

Take some time and soak your sore feet in the Pacific Ocean. The trip is done and you just spent a lot of time avoiding the water. Well don't forget to walk out into the water and feel the sand under your feet. There's a tiny creek up near the trailhead where you can rinse your feet and rinse the saltwater off, so live it up!

Parking Lot

This is where you need to park your car. There is no way up and down to the beach from the back of the lot, so don't bother looking. If you are starting from this end, hike down the road you came in on and then around to the true trailhead by the beach. You can drive around and drop your gear off at the trailhead also.

There are bathrooms with water up here as well, so fill up your bottle.
Pictures in this guide taken by: tonyfarley
i visited this place last december.. will definitely visit again

by planetwi36 on Oct 19, 2014
Great trip. I take my son and nephews aged 11 to 14 backpacking each year at different locations. They all agreed this was the best trip yet. We took three nights and four days for a more leisurely pace with camps at Cooskie Creek, Big Creek, and Shipman Creek.

A few logistical comments:
- shuttle seems expensive at first, but well worth it afterwards.
- 'Impassable at high tide' on the charts means impassable with tides above about 3 feet on the tide tables. Impassable zones are easiest to hike with absolute low tides. Large rolling rocks litter the wave zones at high tide. Hard flat sand is uncovered below the rocks at absolute low tide.
- Permitting is very easy compared to hikes on the more popular Sierra trips. Lost Coast is a top-rated trip that can be easily organized only days in advance.
- Bear cans are easily rented at the BLM office on the way into Shelter Cove.
- Clean fresh water is plentiful. I prefer to keep the load light and recommend no water filtration system - just iodine tablets. All creeks on the map, along with other uncharted creeks, were flowing with clear water even during the current drought summer (August 2014).

Visited on Aug 12, 2014

by tke999 on Aug 18, 2014
The Lost Coast is the star of our "Off The Map" video series on This episode was filmed in March, 2012, on a two-day trek of the route. Check it out. . .

Visited on Mar 24, 2012

by sregenold on Apr 17, 2012

The Lost Coast Trail Trail Map

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About the Author

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I'm the creator of Beautiful Places in HD and Beautiful Places: HIking.

The Lost Coast Trail 3 Day Forecast

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