The King Mountain Range's rocky barrier forced Highway 1 inland at this crook in the Northern California coast, leaving an isolated pocket of wilderness edged with black sand beaches, soaring redwood groves, and fern-shrouded creeks: The Lost Coast. To get a taste of this isolated oasis, head out on this 33-mile out-and-back from Bear Harbor to Usal Camp.
Start by crossing Orchard Creek beneath a tall cluster of red alders to pick up the Lost Coast Trail, then follow the creek to Bear Harbor. Take in long views down the coast, then cross shaded Duffy's Gulch at 2.2 miles. Top a steep bluff that overlooks the sea, then descend to a redwood grove at 3.3 miles. At 9 miles, you'll find prime campsites at Little Jackass Creek near a black sand beach. From here, it's a level walk along grassy ridges past one great view after another as you descend to Usal Camp.
Map California’s Lost Coast Recreation Map ($10, wildernesspress.com)
Info Lost Coast Trail
Hike adapted from 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, by John R. Soares and Marc J. Soares (Mountaineers Books)