Backpacking California’s Lost Coast Trail

Trip information

The Lost Coast trail is in the King Range National Conservation Area. It is rugged and remote – there are no roads between the two trailheads.

  • Trip length: 24.6 miles one way
  • Time to hike: 3-4 days
  • Trailheads: Shelter Cove (south end) or Mattole Beach (north end)
  • Reservations: Not needed. A walk-in permit is required for all overnight campers.
  • Bear canisters: Required
  • Dogs Allowed: yes.

Do you enjoy beautiful coastal scenery? Do you like backpacking? If you answered yes! then California’s Lost Coast trail is one for your list. See how well I sold that?

Dan and I had never backpacked on a beach so this was a treat. We were going to visit our friends in San Francisco for a long weekend and tacked on a few extra days for the Lost Coast.

We flew into San Francisco International Airport and picked up our rental car through Budget. If you’re a Costco Member check out their travel website for some deals on rental cars.

Rental car enjoying the views.

We spent six hours driving north on the spectacular route 1 coastal road. Wow that alone was amazing.

Coast drive 2.jpg

Coast drive

We decided to backpack 15 miles out and then back to save some money, instead of doing the entire point-to-point. The four hour shuttle ride is ~$280 for 2 people.

Lost Coast Trail map.

Bear canisters are required. Also, make sure you have the tide info with you because some sections are impassable at high tide. They had the tide chart posted at Shelter Cove:


Since we arrived at 7 PM, we hiked until we found a good campsite.

Camp night 1

And watched the sunset.


We woke up to a beautiful day. We made breakfast while watching the mist burn off of the hills.

morning day 2
Good morning.

We started hiking and found this very large tree for Dan to sit on.

Tree shot.png

And then we found this flat tree for me to sit on. It is less impressive.

large tree.jpg

We hiked along the beach. It looked like this:

Day 1 BP.png

The first third of the trail alternated between black sand beach and rocks. We couldn’t decide which was easier to hike. Maybe the rocks? There’s nothing like hiking in sand. My legs were very sore after this trip.

BP day 1

We hiked until we reached “Spanish Ridge” (approximately 15 miles out) and then started making our way back.

Turn around.jpg

We watched another romantic sunset.

sunset night 2

The next morning I spent some time watching the waves and digging my feet in the sand.

I don’t ever want to leave.

We continued hiking back toward Shelter Cove. I turned around to take this picture:

BP day 2.jpg

After hiking most of the way back we arrived at this super secret spot just in time to set up our camp…before 6 other groups set up around us. BUT I THOUGHT THIS WAS OUR WILDERNESS??


This is also the night I burned a hole in my beloved down jacket that I wear everywhere. The fire popped and I looked down but didn’t see anything suspicious. Later when I stood up I saw white fluff coming out of a hole the size of a dime. It was devastating. PSA: fires are really dangerous.

Look, sunset number three. Are you still here?

sunset night 3

Our last day involved me being excited that we were back in the sand-zone, then proceeding to backpack barefoot into the waves. It was an excellent idea for <15 minutes.

BP barefoot.jpg
The sand hurts my feet after 0.25 miles.

I loved this trip. The end.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Keng says:

    Fun post. 👍 The pictures are beautiful. Sorry to hear about the jacket.

    Liked by 1 person

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