Back packing the Lost Coast trail in an experience that hits my top ten list of all the places I traveled to. With a little planning, one can travel this isolated part of the Pacific Coast in a few days.
The Lost Coast Trail Is Far Removed and Remote
This place is remote. We traveled nearly 2 hours on a winding paved road to from Shelter cover to Mattole Beach and passed any people or vehicles on the road. Most of the homes are tucked out of sight from the road.
We breezed through the tiny hamlet of Honey Dew and my friend was reluctant to stop. A few old vehicles were parked here and there in front of the old general store. If you get the chance, check out the general store. I visited this place in 1985 and again in 1989. It does not look much different. I remember seeing a dozen or so brands of cigarette rolling paper, books on gardening, and lots of canned goods.
Mattole Beach BLM Campground
The Mattole Beach BLM campground was empty with the exception of my friend Alaska Mark patiently waiting for us at a picnic table.
The BLM campground was nothing more than a scattering of primitive dirt tents sites, outhouses, and picnic tables. Water was not flowing from the spigots. Needless to say, skip the fee campground and find a beautiful campsite on the beach for free.
We hit the Kings Range Mattole Beach trail head at at 5:15 PM and began back packing the Lost Coast Trail with a steady tail wind. Two months of planning made this trip an epic reality.
We donned our heavy back packs laden with food and warm clothes. Within a few minutes the salty smell of the sea, the crashing surf, and the sand under our feet made me forget the previous challenges. We were three adults all named Mark with four boys in tow-ages 14, 13, 12, and 10.
Camping at Punta Gorda Lighthouse
The first day of hiking was an easy 3 miles to the historic Punta Gorda Lighthouse. We were so thankful that wind was to our backs as it was gusty up to 30 miles per hour. The trail was sandy and made travel slower than backpacking the hard surface of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
With 5 days and 4 nights ahead of us, we were not in a hurry. We reached the Punta Gorda lighthouse by 7 PM and set up camp with gale force blowing our gear all over. We had the lighthouse and surrounding property all to ourselves. We pitched 2 tents downwind from the protective lighthouse.
We prepared our evening meal inside the light house to protect us from the wind. My wife stuffed 3 bear canisters with about 2 weeks supply of food. I boiled water for the 3 of us and we each picked our own meal.
Alaska Mark and I drank a celebratory glass of red wine that I stored in a 1 liter collapsible bottle as we ate dinner and watched whales migrate north up the Pacific coast in search of food. The passing whales seemed almost as common as passing cargo ships.
A late group of hikers with bouncing head lights whisked by us right before we went to sleep. We leap frogged them the following morning at 11 AM. Those that were awake looked like they partied all night.
I was lulled to sleep by the constant blowing wind and woke to a canopy of fog at 6 AM. I drank a few cups of fresh ground coffee, ate hot steel cut oats for breakfast and relaxed listening to the crashing waves. My kids were up by 7 AM. We broke camp by 9:30 AM and committed to hiking 6.5 miles.
Waking Up On The Beach Every Morning For 5 Days Is Amazing
When the sun finally broke, the views of the ocean were stunning. What really sticks to my mind is the waves crashing on beach followed by the washboard sound of rocks drawn out to sea. The day was mixed with a lot walking in the sand and rocks. The trail is a mix of sand, grass, rocks, and hard packed dirt.
Hiking The Lost Coast Trail Requires Careful Foot Steps
It was not as difficult as hiking up an 11,000 foot mountain pass. At the end of each day, I did notice that my legs ached because of the constant shifting terrain. Hiking the Lost Coast Trail is like taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Walk steady and slow. Be careful of slippery rocks and unsure footing.
I remember hiking on frozen lakes in Minnesota covered with fresh snow. Hiking through the sand covered beaches was similar as one has to be careful with each step. The threat of slipping or twisting an ankle was always present.
The photo of us standing in ocean polished rocks is typical of the terrain. If you don’t like hiking over rocks, boulders, sand, and mud, then this trail is not for you. The terrain is constantly changing, We were rewarded often with long stretches of flat grassy meadows overlooking the ocean.
Hiking the Lost Coast Trail is often physically easier than hiking alpine mountain trails. With the wind to your back, almost zero elevation gain, and million dollar ocean views, this trail rocks!