Beach sunset on the Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail

The sun is setting on the ocean as you’re making camp for the night. There is nobody around you except for sea lions barking in the distance. That’s not a dream. All you need is to backpack the Lost Coast Trail, a 25-mile, no-elevation gain, beach trail in Northern California. Here is what you need to know to make this dream a reality.

Contents
  • Overview
  • When to go
  • Itinerary
  • Transportation
  • Permits
  • Regulations
  • Dangers

Overview

Mileage

25 miles

Duration

2–4 days

Best time

May–October

Permits

Required & competitive
Overview map of the Lost Coast Trail. 2h drive between Mattole and Black Sands Beach. 5h 30min drive from San Francisco. 11h drive from Los Angeles.

When to go

The coast is a lot cooler than the rest of California. Expect fog in summer and rain in winter. The best time to visit is from May through October.

Weather on the Lost Coast Trail. Rainy from November to April. Foggy in July and August. Temperatures above 65F from May to October.

Before picking a date, check the tide because some sections are impassable at low tide. Tides change every day, and on some days, the low tide happens at night.

Itinerary

You can start from either the North (Mattole Beach) or the South (Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove). Both offer a similar experience but the logistics vary.

Southbound

From Mattole

Preferred if taking the shuttle (shuttle only runs northbound).

Northbound

From Black Sands Beach

Less popular, so easier to find somebody to arrange a key-swap.

Check the tides before picking an itinerary. One itinerary may be more favorable depending on the tide.

Transportation

Most people hike the Lost Coast Trail point-to-point. As with any point-to-point hike, we recommend leaving your car at the end of the trail. You may be faster, or slower and it’s always good to know there’s a car waiting for you at the end. It’s better than stressing out about catching a shuttle or giving somebody a call!

You have three options:

  1. Book a shuttle. It’s the most convenient, but it’s also the most expensive option at $95 per person.
  2. Arrange a key-swap. You exchange car keys with a party who will hike the trail in the other direction.
  3. Drive in with two cars. Leave one car at the end of the trail.

Permits

Permits are required to hike the Lost Coast Trail. Permits are available on Recreation.gov. Permits are released 3 months ahead at 7am PT. Upcoming releases:

For trips starting on……permits are released on
Jul 13Apr 13 at 7am PT (passed)
Jul 14Apr 14 at 7am PT
Jul 15Apr 15 at 7am PT
Select

Beware, this trail is extremely popular, permits run out within minutes of the release time.

Cancellations

If you can’t secure a permit, you can always snag a canceled one. Use our notification service to receive alerts when we find cancellations.

Walk-up permits

One permit for up to 2 people is available for walk-up at the King Range Visitor Center on the day your trip starts. This permit is issued on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive when the visitor center opens (at 8am PT) to maximize your chances for getting it.

Regulations

  • Bear canister: required
  • Dogs: allowed
  • Fires: often prohibited from mid-June to mid-October. When allowed, campfires and stoves require a fire permit.
  • Poop: dig a cathole at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Pack out toilet paper.

All rules and regulations

Dangers

  • Tides and sneaker waves. Do not swim in the ocean. Never hike through impassable sections at high tide. Even at low tide, beware of sneaker waves — large waves that can appear without warning.
  • Poison oak. Poison oak grows along the trail. Wear long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes. If you come in contact with poison oak, wash with water and poison oak soap.
  • Ticks. Wear long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes. Spray your clothes with Permethrin. And check your body every day for ticks.
  • Bears. Black bears are known to visit campsites. If encountering a bear, scare them away by making noise and throwing rocks. Use a bear canister to store food and scented items.

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