Camping on California's north coast

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 21-27, 1996
Bike touring in Provence
Desert backpacking adventures
Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains
Camping on California's north coast
Backcountry hikes in Montana and Wyoming

Camping on California's north coast
Question: I am a student at Humboldt State University in northern California. My spring break is advancing quickly. I was curious if you had any suggestions for a nice weekend hike somewhere along the north coast (SF-Eureka) where I could take some first-time hikers. A place that offered some sidebar activities (i.e. bouldering, fishing) would be great, too. Thanks.

Brian Rieke
Arcata, CA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: A good weekend option would be to head north from Eureka to the tiny community of Shelter Cove on California's fabled Lost Coast. Most of the region is now protected as the King Range Conservation Area, which means that there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from. From Shelter Cove, wander up the Lost Coast Trail for 26 uninterrupted miles along the King Range, past offshore rocks rife with sea lions and seals, or head inland on the 2.5-mile Buck Creek trail to the summit of 3,290-foot Saddle Mountain. The five-mile Chemise Mountain trail also deserves a closer look, as does the 16-mile King Crest Trail, which climbs the main coastal ridge for spectacular views of the Eel Ridge Valley and the Pacific.

If you get tired of hoofing it, spend an afternoon combing the slate-black sand for Indian shell mounds left over from a century ago. Surfing is best at Big Flat, midway down the beach. Camping is permitted anywhere on the beach, but if you want picnic tables and toilets, pitch your tent at Mattole Campground, at the north end.

If you go, don't forget your Gore-Tex. King Range is doused with more than 100 inches of rain annually, much of which falls from October to April. Another good thing to remember: Tides can strand unwary hikers in coves, and the occasional monster-size "sleeper" wave can wash the unsuspecting out to sea. Be sure to carry and consult tide tables, available in stores in Shelter Cove. Getting there means taking the Garberville/Redway exit off U.S. 101 and heading west on Briceland Road for 26 miles to Shelter Cove. For more information, call the BLM office in Arcata at 707-825-2300, or check out "Some Sand of Your Own" in the Destinations section of our July 1995 issue.

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