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Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

Best Hikes Ever: The Lost Coast Trail, CA

Hike America's most punishing paradise.

by: Kelly Bastone

Poppies color the Lost Coast. (Paige Falk)
Poppies color the Lost Coast. (Paige Falk)

Dissenting Opinion 
“As I recollect it—admittedly through a hypothermic haze—I don’t fondly rank this as the country’s best beach hike,” says Michael Lanza. “I much prefer the sea stacks, rainforest, tide pools filled with starfish and sea anemones, and seaside cliffs of the Olympic Coast.”



Our 2001 Editors’ Choice trip here was epic in every way. Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dorn recalls, “We saw storm-driven swells that were running five to six feet above the normal highest tide along with horizontal rain that made walking difficult. Stream crossings got so tricky that some of us came within inches of being swept out to sea.” But for all that, he admits, it’s uniquely beautiful. “The Lost Coast might be the purest expression of solitude you can experience in the Lower 48, with sea breezes, mystical fogs, and cush campsites, to boot.” It’s also one of the wettest stretches of the Pacific Coast, averaging 100 inches of rain annually.

Do it The 53-mile route is divided into two sections. For the beach-hugging north, hike 25 miles from Mattole River to Shelter Cove (tide tables are a must for this section). To access the southern section’s 28 miles, start at Hidden Valley and head through Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. This segment penetrates groves of old-growth redwoods and tops 1,000-foot headlands with views of a coastline so rugged, the Pacific Coast Highway had to be diverted inland.

Resources
Shuttle Lost Coast Trail Transport (price varies, 707-986-9909) Permits North section (free, 707-986-5400; ca.blm.gov/Arcata); south section ($3 per person per night; parks.ca.gov)
Map California’s Lost Coast Recreation Map ($10, wildernesspress.com)
Trip ID 27498 (north section)




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Tommy
Feb 21, 2014

I see you Ashley.

Star Star Star Star Star
Neal
Nov 08, 2013

Beautiful weather for my hike, no swells, even saw a couple surfers doing the hike in. Stream crossings were no problem. All campsites were awesome, sorry that other people didn't luck out like I did, best vacation ever.

Diane Rivera
Jan 12, 2012

For the beach-hugging north, hike 25 miles from Mattole River to Shelter Cove (tide tables are a must for this section). Yes, I did this hike! Hiking with 45lbs in the sand was interesting! Fabulous hike for all the reasons that Jonathan mentions:
Jonathan Dorn recalls, “We saw storm-driven swells that were running five to six feet above the normal highest tide along with horizontal rain that made walking difficult. Stream crossings got so tricky that some of us came within inches of being swept out to sea.” DITTO! We had bad weather, and it made for an unusual backpack trip and I loved it. But for all that, he admits, it’s uniquely beautiful. “The Lost Coast might be the purest expression of solitude you can experience in the Lower 48, with sea breezes, mystical fogs, and cush campsites, to boot.” (we never found a CUSH campsite - weather did not permit such a thing. However, we were quite unique as a group of 10 hikes and we made lemonaide out of lemons and loved every minute. We found snakes, and other treasures on the beach as we went along) If you can dream it, you can do it. And yes, you need a tide chart!!

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