Beach sunset on the Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail

Short Guide to a Perfect Trip

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.

Overview

MileageDurationBest TimePermits
25 miles2–4 daysMay–OctoberRequired & competitive
Overview map of the Lost Coast Trail

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.

Monthly weather on the Lost Coast Trail

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 occurs at night. Check out the Interactive Tide Chart to pick the best date.

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.

Check the tides before picking an itinerary. An itinerary may be a better choice depending on the tide. Use the Interactive Tide Chart to find out:

Interactive Tide Chart

Transportation

The Lost Coast Trail is best done as a one-way route. So how do you get back to your car after you get to the other end?

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 instead of stressing out about catching a shuttle or giving somebody a call!

You have three options:

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

Permits

You need a permit to hike the Lost Coast Trail. You can book permits on Recreation.gov. Permits are released once a year, on October 1st, 7 AM PT. Subscribe to our once-a-month newsletter to get reminded when permits are released.

For trips starting in……permits are released on
2022October 1, 2021, at 7 AM PT
2023October 1, 2022, at 7 AM PT
2024October 1, 2023, at 7 AM PT

This trail is extremely popular, permits for the best dates run out within minutes of the opening date.

But if you can’t secure a permit, you can always snag a canceled permit. Use our notification service to receive alerts when we find permits.

Snag canceled permits

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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