This Wild And Under-The-Radar California Trail May Be The Best Coastal Hike In America

Human hands have transformed California, with mountains, deserts, and wetlands giving way for homes and highways — but one stretch of land along the coastline of northern California provides its visitors with a rare look into the wilderness. You can only explore it through hiking trails like the Lost Coast; however, with some planning, you can experience it yourself. Just don't expect the blue skies, white sand, and palm trees of gorgeous, frequently filmed Venice Beach.


With rain lashing against its towering cliffs and fog rolling over the ocean waves, you should not underestimate this region — and that's why it's managed to stay wild. While the rest of the coast transformed into Highway 1, the road's path avoided this strip of land that runs through the King Range Wilderness. The Lost Coast Trail takes almost 9 hours to complete, and many people stop and camp along the way when they find a patch of ground that looks hospitable enough to spend the night.

Experience the wild on California's Lost Coast Trail

The opportunity to immerse themselves in nature draws travelers to Lost Coast. Walking along the trail, you'll take in some incredible sights, from cliffside wildflowers and tall redwoods to waves crashing against black sand beaches. Without light pollution, stargazing in the wilderness is beautiful. If you get lucky, you might even spot the Northern Lights.


Even if you plan the hike as a solo trip, you'll share the land with others as you traverse the tricky Lost Coast. However, you'll probably see more animals than humans. In peak season, only 60 people can secure a permit for the trail on any given day, and that number drops to 30 in the off-season, but this region is a hotspot for local fauna. Make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for signs of wildlife. Looking out at the water, you might see a leaping porpoise or a California gray whale. Along the beach, you could spot 13-foot and over 4000-lb elephant seals, sea lions, river otters, and many other fascinating creatures in the tide pools. The woods around you house bobcats, bears, elk and deer, while eagles and seabirds swoop overhead.


How to hike the incredible Lost Coast Trail

If you want to hike the Lost Coast, you will need to start planning about a year in advance. You'll require a permit from Although reserving one will only cost you around $12 per person for up to 14 days, you may struggle to secure a permit due to the large number of people competing for a few limited spots on the trail. The trail remains open all year; however, most people choose to come between April and September when they have a better chance of encountering good weather.


No matter when you decide to go, you'll want to keep an eye on the local tides (NOAA) and plan your journey accordingly. The terrain can be difficult, with the trek alternating between slippery rocks and damp sand, so many hikers choose to bring hiking poles. Whether you plan on going with friends or loved ones or solo, make sure you pack everything you need for a camping trip, too. You'll find small designated campsites along the trail that you can use if someone else has not already taken them. If you feel confident that you've chosen public land that won't get hit by the incoming tides, you can camp in any other location where you'd like to spend the night.