Lost Coast Trail (Copy)

Play tag with the pounding surf by day and camp in misty coves by night on this 26-miler along the wildflower-swathed hillsides of the Lost Coast.
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Play tag with the pounding surf by day and camp in misty coves by night on this 26-miler along the wildflower-swathed hillsides of the Lost Coast.

In 1849, a party trying to penetrate the Lost Coast's secluded wilderness got in trouble and had to eat flour paste that formed in their wet packs. No wonder: The King Range's 4,000-footers form a natural barricade to the Lower 48's wildest stretch of coast. Now, 70 miles of trails access natural arches, sea caves, spits, and high-wattage sunsets along the black-sand beaches.
A 26-mile segment of the Lost Coast Trail starts at Mattole Creek. Head south for 8.3 miles, passing otters and a sea-lion rookery, before making camp at Randall Creek. On day 2, ascend 6.6 miles to the lush grasslands of Spanish Flats. Continue on to Miller Flat at Big Flat Creek for a camping spot with driftwood forts on both sides of the creek.
The last day, link more beaches and boulders going south to Shelter Cove and its parking area where you'll pick up your shuttle car. In at least three spots you'll need to time your hike with the tides, so bring a chart.
MORE INFO: www.ca.blm.gov/Arcata
-Mapped by Dave Miller

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 41.9

Waypoints

LCT001

Location: 40.288971, -124.356102

Head S onto black-sand beach littered with driftwood. Don't forget: Pack a tide table to time crossings

LCT002

Location: 40.287201, -124.358597

Leave beach for trail along fence

LCT003

Location: 40.269699, -124.362602

More soft-sand hiking on beach. During low tide, stay close to the water for firm footing, but watch out for sleeper waves

LCT004

Location: 40.262218, -124.363098

Trail pinched by surf and cliffs @ high tide; path picks up in 300 yds. Conical Rock hovers in the breakers

LCT005

Location: 40.255859, -124.357498

Carefully ford gravel bars of Fourmile Creek upstream from where it pours into the ocean

LCT006

Location: 40.254108, -124.355003

Continue R @ Cooskie Creek marker; Spanish Ridge rises to N

LCT007

Location: 40.24992, -124.350487

Punta Gorda Lighthouse: The razor-sharp reefs ripped the hulls of many ships until this short white tower was built in 1911

LCT008

Location: 40.243919, -124.341698

Leave beach for more navigable terrain along bluffs and undulating ridgelines dotted with wildflowers

LCT009

Location: 40.240829, -124.333801

Sea lions sunbathe on surf-worn rocks

LCT010

Location: 40.239738, -124.331497

Look for flowering succulents along the gully's edge while descending to the mouth of Sea Lion Gulch, hardpack trail dumps onto rocky beach.

LCT011

Location: 40.23505, -124.3255

Driftwood shelter: Intricate log pile is a windless, safe, high-tide campsite. Continue S

LCT012

Location: 40.23391, -124.325203

Tricky spot: Pass rocky beach @ low tide. In a few strides, follow cairns on S side of unnamed creek up bluff, then take user trail to Cooskie Creek Spur marker. Turn R and return to beach

LCT013

Location: 40.219601, -124.3106

Cooskie Creek: Crimson sunsets burn extra splen­dor into already fantastic oceanside campsites (permit and bear canister required)

LCT014

Location: 40.213791, -124.303497

Area is impassable at high tide; this stretch is one of the last of the beach hiking for Day 2. Terrain can go from soft sand to pea gravel to boulders. Small waterfalls and tributary streams shoestring along the folded cliff face.

LCT015

Location: 40.200645, -124.28405

L @ Randal Creek, then R onto trail into the gulch. This begins a scenic stretch from Spanish Flat to Big Flat where carpets of wildflowers line an old Jeep trail. Trail conditions improve greatly from here to Kinsey Creek.

LCT016

Location: 40.190559, -124.265099

Continue S @ intersection with unnamed trail.

LCT017

Location: 40.185322, -124.253998

Spanish Creek: R @ Y, then R @ marker

LCT018

Location: 40.179291, -124.243896

Outlet of Oak Creek between pinched walls of Oak and Kinsey Ridge

LCT019

Location: 40.174469, -124.232903

Go R to continue S on beach

LCT020

Location: 40.172119, -124.229797

Free-flowing braids of Kinsey Creek provide a great lunch spot and water break. Top off bladders here.

LCT021

Location: 40.167931, -124.225304

Keep R on trail along beach; go past Etter Cabin, a private homesteand still in use today.

LCT022

Location: 40.15995, -124.213699

L heading uphill to bypass beach

LCT023

Location: 40.15699, -124.211601

Reach Big Creek and go L up to bluff; best bet for dry crossing is upstream.

LCT024

Location: 40.131962, -124.181198

R on foot path. Leave landing strip and follow sandy trail to Big Flat Creek; Black Rock protrudes from the offshore surf

LCT025

Location: 40.128059, -124.1763

Miller Flat at Big Flat Creek: perfect camping spot with driftwood shelters on both sides of creek; other camping areas back among the trees on S side of creek. To continue: follow sandy trail S

LCT026

Location: 40.12249, -124.162697

Return to beach hiking with a stretch of climbing on small boulders. Areas ahead to Gitchell Creek impassible at high tide.

LCT027

Location: 40.121201, -124.157204

Boulder-laced section ends and soft-sand hiking returns

LCT028

Location: 40.117771, -124.148399

Tidepools along break-line. Watch for blacktailed deer coming to the beach from Shipman Creek.

LCT029

Location: 40.108582, -124.121803

Buck Creek: can be difficult to cross in spring or early summer as run-off from steep-walled canyon creates a rushing torrent.

LCT030

Location: 40.094292, -124.102097

Gitchell Creek features camping areas deeper in the mouth of the canyon. Tides are not an issue and it's all beach to the S. Horse Mountain and Kaluna Cliff tower through the haze in the SE.

LCT031

Location: 40.04517, -124.078598

Reach Shelter Cove and go L up bluff to parking lot.

Rocky Beach

Location: 40.243656, -124.340454

Cliffs crumble into the sea. ©Dave Miller

Mattole Creek and Pacific Panorama

Location: 40.2887, -124.357918

Blue-sky views over the Pacific. ©Dave Miller

Hardpack Trail

Location: 40.28672, -124.356606

Trail leads to the bluffs above the ocean. ©Dave Miller

Hills Meet Ocean

Location: 40.274773, -124.361481

Wildflowers lace the verdant hills throughout the Lost Coast. ©Dave Miller

Driftwood Shelter #1

Location: 40.25927, -124.36084

For years, surfers and hikers have built driftwood shelters along the coast. First come basis. ©Dave Miller

Lighthouse

Location: 40.249371, -124.349815

The Punta Gorda Lighthouse is no longer in use. ©Dave Miller

Sealion Rock

Location: 40.241283, -124.332855

Locals catch major rays just offshore. ©Dave Miller

Profile Rock

Location: 40.239826, -124.33036

A hulking anthropomorphic figure among the breakers. ©Dave Miller

Driftwood Shelter #2

Location: 40.235085, -124.32489

Flotsam and driftwood make for a wind-free shelter. ©Dave Miller

Squeeze Factor

Location: 40.219204, -124.309517

There's room for two tents in this ocean-side lean-to. ©Dave Miller

Cooskie Creek Panorama

Location: 40.219471, -124.309654

A driftwood camp near the mouth of the Cooskie Creek. ©Dave Miller

Camp Sunset

Location: 40.219471, -124.310135

The sun drops below thick clouds. ©Dave Miller

Boulders Into the Sea

Location: 40.216476, -124.306145

Breakers pound against boulder piles. ©Dave Miller

Yellow Paths

Location: 40.195232, -124.269691

A wildflower carpet draped along the Lost Coast. ©Dave Miller

Dotted Hills

Location: 40.198807, -124.274673

Hikers pass lonely hillsides laced with wildflowers. ©Dave Miller

Private Cabin

Location: 40.182632, -124.250725

©Dave Miller

Wildflowers

Location: 40.18103, -124.24765

In spring and summer, the hills bloom in vibrant displays. ©Dave Miller

Big Creek

Location: 40.157822, -124.209351

A rocky outlet spilling into the Pacific. ©Dave Miller

Driftwood Fortress

Location: 40.127529, -124.171852

Perced atop Miller Flat, this shelter has a top-notch view of remote beaches.©Dave Miller

Yellow Orb at Big Flat

Location: 40.131039, -124.179611

An orange-and-crimson sun burns into a darkened horizon. ©Dave Miller

Big Flat Creek Sunset

Location: 40.1311, -124.177521

Wisps of evening mist color the hillsides at Big Flat Creek. ©Dave Miller

Big Flat Driftwood Shelter

Location: 40.129807, -124.178322

A small dwelling that will protect surf-worn hikers. ©Dave Miller

Rocky Hiking

Location: 40.121677, -124.156891

Carefully balancing with each step, hikers travel into verdant and misty coves ©Dave Miller

Buck Creek

Location: 40.10881, -124.121063

Fallen trees and thick growth choke the outlet of Buck Creek. ©Dave Miller

Massive Trunk

Location: 40.067806, -124.081352

A huge tree trunk rests half-buried in black sand. ©Dave Miller

Black Sand Beach

Location: 40.067806, -124.081352

Shelter Cove, the final destination, lays along the hazy horizon. ©Dave Miller

Upper Map Corner

Location: 40.346544, -124.50325

Lower Map Corner

Location: 40.033924, -123.982773