The Lost Coast VC_RemoteCalifornia_Module2_LostCoast_Stock_RM_97763374_1280x640
Panoramic Images/Getty Images

The Lost Coast

The Lost Coast
Hike—or better yet backpack—a secret stretch of coastline

World-renowned State Highway 1 cruises along 650 miles of the California coast from Orange County north toward the Mendocino Coast. At its northern terminus, this epic route ends where it joins U.S. 101—but the coast continues, bending west just north of Fort Bragg.

With no major roads to access this ocean-wrapped region, it is justly called the Lost Coast. But you can explore on foot. In fact, the nearly 25-mile-long Lost Coast Trail is on the bucket list of many an avid backpacker.

Walk a wild beach to discover shell mounds, marking the spot where Native Americans once shucked clams and shellfish.

Stretching between Shelter Cove to the south and the Mattole River to the north, the Lost Coast is a wild land of forests, fog, waves, and sand. On the hike, which typically takes three days one way, you’ll be wowed by sweeping views of the King Range, its peaks soaring 4,000 feet above the Pacific. Walk a wild beach to discover shell mounds, marking the spot where Native Americans once shucked clams and other bivalves. Bring binoculars to spy impressive Roosevelt elk grazing in bluff-top prairies. Another essential item to pack: a current tide table. When the tide is high, boulder-strewn beaches (and your trail) disappear beneath the waves. Time your tromp right or you could face a long wait in a flooded cove. To hike the entire Lost Coast Trail, leave one car at Mattole River Beach and the other at Black Sands Beach near Shelter Cove, or make arrangements with a local shuttle service.

Not up to backpacking but want to stretch your legs? Head for the Lost Trail’s northern terminus, accessed by following Lighthouse Road west from the hamlet of Petrolia. A three-mile out-and-back trail south from Mattole River Beach affords an awesome photo op: the abandoned lighthouse at Punta Gorda. 

The Lost Coast NC_DuncansCove_Seeff_1280x642_sized_downsized_0
Tai Power Seeff

Discover the North Coast

The Lost Coast vca_maps_northcoast
52
November
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
63°
High
45°
Low
Dec - Feb
55°
High
41°
Low
Mar - May
58°
High
43°
Low
June - Aug
62°
High
51°
Low

Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.

Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.

It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.

The Lost Coast VC_Klamath_Stock_RM_B3XYCF_1280x640
Clint Farlinger/Alamy

Klamath

Redwoods, salmon, and California’s largest tribe all thrive in this small North Coast town

Klamath is so far north that many people assume this tiny town is in Oregon, not California. Set along its...

The Lost Coast Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.10.39 AM
Tour an inspiring compound dedicated to an almost-lost art

Eric Hollenbeck didn’t plan to be a time traveler, or a museum curator, or a model of how to take care of troubled youth or returning war vets....

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T5_3274826312_b09df578ae_o_0
Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake within California, is the oldest lake in North America and possibly the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

The Lost Coast McWayFalls_JPB_SP_preview_686x885
Amy Meredith/Flickr
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir
The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T2_MendoHeadlands_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Mendocino

The Lost Coast vca_maps_northcoast
Discover a coastal paradise with ridiculously fresh seafood, amazing wine, and craft beer

With its dramatic ocean-bluff setting overlooking a steel-blue sea, this coastal hamlet is an obvious magnet for artists, romantics, and lovers of...

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T1_RedwoodNP_Manley-sized
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
The Lost Coast vcw_d_mendorino_t9_nc_pointarenalgthouse_seeff_1280x642
At 115 feet, Point Arena Lighthouse is the tallest climbable lighthouse on the West Coast.
The Lost Coast NC_winecountry_Manley_1280x642
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

North Coast Wine Country

Slip away to some of the state’s most peaceful vineyards

From quiet vineyards bounded by lush redwood forests along the Mendocino Coast, to the sun-drenched rolling hills of rugged Lake County, the North...

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T6-Wine & Dine_Seeff_NCA0805
Tai Power Seeff

Wine & Dine in the North Coast

Sample hyper-local foods from land and sea, plus amazing beers and wines

The North Coast might just be the perfect place to eat. Few other places in the world can offer such a harmonious blend of chefs, farmers,...

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T5_3274826312_b09df578ae_o
Courtesy of County of Lake

Clear Lake

Explore a burgeoning wine scene and cool off with a summery splash in the lake

Take a deep breath the next time you’re in Lake County. That’s some of the cleanest air in the nation, according to the American Lung...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Follow celebrated routes to iconic vineyards and tucked-away surprises

With more than 4,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

The Lost Coast Grapes_WineRoads_SpecialFeature_preview_686x885
SPECIAL FEATURE
Celebrate the seasonal bounty and quirky art-fueled character of the North Coast

You can learn a lot about a place at its local festivals. Consider the Kinetic Grand Championship, a cosmically silly three-day battle between human-powered works of art (imagine a speeding dragon...

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T4_BrendanMcGuianIMG_8280_sized_vertical
The Lost Coast FF_VCW_D_NC_T1_RedwoodNP_Manley_0
The Humboldt County Fair began in 1896 and is the oldest running county fair in California.
The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T7_520625157_0b857da159_o
Courtesy of Humboldt County CVB

Ferndale

Visit a Victorian village where time stands still

A fairytale come to life, this remote village features carefully preserved Victorian-era century homes, a visual and architectural feast. On a...

The Lost Coast VCW_D_NC_T8-SkunkTrain_1280x642_downsized
Courtesy of Skunk Train

Skunk Train

Ride a historic train through soaring coast redwoods

Originally built to transport redwood logs from the rugged backcountry to the coast, this 1885 heritage railroad now ferries sightseers to and fro...

The Lost Coast EurekaCarsonMansion.CourtesyRedwoods.info_
Courtesy of Humboldt County CVB

Eureka

Nature and culture merge in an art-fueled Victorian seaport

This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in...

The Lost Coast FF_GlassBeach_FortBragg_LH
While now a beautiful coastal treasure, Glass Beach initially began in the late 1940s as a place where locals would toss their trash, including glass bottles.
The Lost Coast CoastalRocks_FortBragg_LH_1280x642
Lucas Himovitz

Fort Bragg

Rough-and-tumble lumber town morphs into a top coastal find

With its original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most visitors. But now—perhaps...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Find whitewater rafting fun for all—from newbies to nerves-of-steel experts

Think of a river, and chances are you’ve got your own daydream. Maybe you want to float on inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft....

The Lost Coast VC_RiverRafting_Preview_Stock_RM_172652806_686x885
Groveb/Getty Images
The Lost Coast CoastalRocks_FortBragg_LH_1280x642

Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets