Hiking the Lost Coast Trail: Two romantic days on the beach

This Adventure of the Week comes from Max Neale, Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, which was recently named Best Gear Website by Outside Magazine. Max regularly contributes reviews and tales from the road on our blog. He took us climbing in Turkey in February, and now we head down California’s Lost Coast…

WHO: Max Neale

WHAT: backpacking on the Lost Coast Trail

WHEN: March 6-8 2012

WHERE: Northern California coast

GEAR: MSR tent, waterproof jacket, plus gear to impress her like the Platypreserve to hold your finest wine and the luxury Nemo Fillo pillow

If backpacking trips were like dinner dates, the Lost Coast Trail would be a seaside French bistro. It doesn’t get much better than this: the logistics are simple, the terrain is mild, and the views are spectacular. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend outing, or a peaceful solo hike, the Lost Coast Trail could be one of the best coastal walks in the world.

Looking south from the Punta Gorda Lighthouse

The Lost Coast is a mostly undeveloped section of the California coast. It lies far up north, just south of Eureka. The terrain is mountainous and wet; this is the land of Redwoods and pristine aqua-blue rivers. Lost Coast can be done anytime, but summer has best weather and winter has the lowest tides (so you may be able to pass through some sections that would otherwise be impassible at high tide). The trail that bears the area’s name stretches roughly eighty miles from where Route 1 cuts inland, south of Garberville, to Fortuna where it rejoins 101. Though this whole stretch is walkable, most people do a 26-mile section (from the Mattole River to Shelter Cove) along the water. This is a rare slice of beachside wilderness. Sea otters and sea lions chatter as you walk along deserted beaches scattered with polished rocks and driftwood. Camp wherever you like: anywhere is a five star site.

Lost Coast Logistics

Park at the Mattole River Trailhead, where you self-register for free permits. “Mandatory” bear canisters are available at the Petrolia General Store (707-629-3455) for $5 plus deposit. Hike south for two nights, being mindful of several sections that can’t be passed at hightide, and hitchhike back from Shelter Cove or leave a car there. This Lost Coast map shows start and end points, particularly good campsites, and tide-related information.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, ski, Lost Coast Trail backpack in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Platypus Platypreserve
Platypus Platypreserve
MSRP: $12.95

Nemo Fillo Luxury Pillow
Nemo Fillo Luxury Pillow
MSRP: $49.95


I'm Tahoe Mountain Sports' web editor and a 6-year Tahoe resident. Yep, I live the life, with a lake view from my desk, lunch breaks on the beach with my dog, and morning powder runs when the snow's good. I ski, snowboard, skate ski, and cross-country ski in winter, and hike, mountain bike, backpack, and lay around on Tahoe's beaches in summer.


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