shoreline highway 1

The California Lost Coast

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The California Lost Coast is the most remote coastal area in the state. It’s all about the very steep terrain and high rainfall made building major roads here too big of a challenge. This part of the coast is only accessible by a few back roads. It’s been lost to civilization, but not to outdoor enthusiasts.

When traveling up Highway 1 (the shoreline Highway) just a few miles past the sleepy town of Westport, Highway 1 no longer hugs the immediate coastline, and starts going inland.

In 1919, when Highway 1 was being built, the engineers tried desperately to keep the highway hugging the coastline, but eventually gave up and turned inland at the Lost Coast. The steep grades and undulations of building a road there was to insurmountable.

This almost untouched area is popular with hikers, campers, horseback riding and mountain biking. This part of the wild coast also attracts hunters, fishing, abalone diving, and mushroom collecting. The lost coast also attracts surfers, always in search for the perfect spot.

Wildlife is plentiful, including seals and sea lions, tide pool creatures, and nearly 300 species of birds, and herds of Roosevelt Elk, and just off the coast watching the migrating grey whales. There are old growth redwood forests, stands of Douglas fir, coastal chaparral, and grassy meadows.

There are two recreation areas here. The Kings Range National Conservation Area and the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

There are two drive in beach camping locations. Mattole Beach at the northern end of King Range National Conservation area, and Usal Beach at the very south end of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

Then there is the Lost Coast Trail. Be sure to bring a map or guidebook and a tide table as well. Sections of the trail may be underwater at high tide. The Lost Coast has the most unusual beaches, because they are black sand beaches. Most black sand beaches are made up of volcanic rock, but not here. The rock is primarily graywacke, a dark gray crumbly sandstone, which makes the beaches in the Lost Coast so dramatic.

Civilization on the Lost Coast is a small community called Shelter Cove. Here you will find an airstrip, a 9 hole golf course, several inns and motels, a few restaurants, and a privately run RV Park and campground. There is also a marina where you can catch a fishing charter or you can fish along the shore.


You can see the Lost Coast on a map. It’s the only area where there’s a big chunk of land west of Highway 101. It begins north around Ferndale and it ends near Leggett where Highway 1 branches off to Highway 101.

Roads into the Lost Coast area are narrow, winding, and often steep. Some roads are only accessible to four wheel drive vehicles. Unpaved roads may be impossible during the winter rainy season. Shelter Cove is the most accessible area, with a paved road all the way.