When I decided to venture out to the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail, I knew the drive would be long. But because I left home quite late, it was dark when I reached Legget and the intersection where 101 and 1 meet after 9 hours of driving. My plan was to start from Usal Beach, hike all the way up to the north end of the southern section, which is Nadelos Campground, and then turn around and hike back to Usal. Out and back. Simple plan for the Lost Coast Trail.

HOW TO GET TO NADELOS CAMPGROUND

If you’re coming from San Francisco or Los Angeles, it is likely to take US-101N till you reach Garberville. If you are coming from Eureka, Redding or Oregon, take US-110S. Either way, you get off the freeway to get on Redwood Dr.

When Redwood Dr. meets Briceland Thorn Rd., take that and remain on it because it becomes Shelter Cove Rd. When you see a sign reading Nadelos Campground at the junction where Shelter Cove and Chemise Mountain Rd. meet, you turn into that road. Keep an eye on the entrance of the campground to your right.

Note: According to Google Maps, Chemise Mountain Rd. appears to turn into a very windy Usal Rd., which goes all the way down to Usal Beach Campground. You may want to take this for shuttling.

WHEN TO BACKPACK LOST COAST TRAIL

All year-round for the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail.

However, the climate is very much like the typical Pacific Northwest climate, meaning one can expect frequent showers, heavy fogs and pouring rains in the fall and winter seasons. Especially the time of the year when I did was late September, and when it rained, it was quite humid and everything got dampened.

ITEMS YOU MUST BRING

  • Permit (Self-register at Visitors Center)
  • GPS
  • Layers of clothing, including water-proof or resitant jackets
  • Head lamp
  • Hat
  • Synthetic sleeping bag (down sleeping bags are discouraged if a trip is planned for the fall and winter seasons)

1ST DAY ON LOST COAST TRAIL 

Lost Coast Trail road trip, California, Central California,
On the road. Headed to the Lost Coast Trail.

Some might ask why I didn’t shuttle, and I had two reasons.

Lost Coast Trail, road trip, backpacking, hiking, driving, California, Central California
As my long drive continued, the day was slowly winding down. I really wanted to arrive at the campground by the nightfall.

One, the shuttle costs too much. We didn’t look into it closely, but it was supposed to be $75 and up, based on one of the blogs that we came across in research. It could’ve saved us time, like the blogger stated, but time to do what?

Of course, if someone has only 2 or 3 days to complete the Lost Coast Trail one way, like the blogger and his buddies did, then, it may be an option. However, that wasn’t the case for me. I had a whole week to work with and also had a couple of hikes to consider afterwards, such as a day hike in Yosemite, if I wanted to. Nothing was carved in stone, and yes, I could’ve shuttled in and finished it in two days, but my heart wasn’t in the idea. Besides, I didn’t arrange any shuttle service leading up to my departure nor have time to look into how it works, so I never had an intention to consider it.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, sunset, hiking,
The sun set rather quickly in late September.

Two, I really wanted to immerse myself in the wilderness by completing the whole thing in my terms. I also wanted it to be a solo trip (although it didn’t start out that way), and I had a chance to do it. So, I did it, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, Nadelos Campground, King Range, backpacking, hiking, camping, campground, morning,
Arrived quite late, so I didn’t want to spend time pitching my tent. Instead, I slept in the backseat of my car. Yes, it was quite uncomfortable, but I knew it was a short night.

When I reached the supposedly entrances to Usal Beach at two different areas, they were not open. Or I simply could not find the right entrance to Usal Beach as it got real dark. (Later once I got back home, I verified this with a King Range park ranger whom I corresponded by email that it was not easy to find it at night.)

So, after driving up and down on 1 for close to 2 hours in vain, I decided to drive further up to Nadelos Campground instead and to start my Lost Coast Trail backpacking trip from there. After another hour of driving northbound on 101 and then via windy roads, I got in, found the campground, parked the car and called it a night. (No, I didn’t set up my tent. I slept in my car.)

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, camping, King Range, Nadelos Campground, morning
Spent the night at Nedelos Campground and I was ready to start my backpacking Day

Next morning, I got up, enjoyed my breakfast and got my gear ready for the first day of the Lost Coast Trail journey.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, King Range, campground, Nadelos Campground
I stood at the starting point of this backpacking trip, which I tended 2 nights and 3 days then. I had no idea what was in store.

Originally, a group of six of us planned to go to Yosemite. But the meadow fire broke out and it turned everything upside down – anticipation, preparation, discussions and expectations. And most of all, under a bit of anxiety, we had to come up with a plan b fast, and eventually, we settled on the idea of backpacking the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail. It was brought up once before, so it was a somewhat familiar destination that we talked about. However, because of how a few of us wanted to combine this opportunity with something else, we ended up splitting into smaller groups to go separately. Yura and Leanna, who were going to come with me in my car, couldn’t join me at the last minute, so it naturally became a solo road trip. Or a solo road trip at first. And except for when I was joined by Ana-Lisa and her friend Scott for a couple of hours in the earlier part of the first day, it became my solo backpacking trip.

Lost Coast Trail, trail, backpacking, hiking, solo,
Early enough to see long shadows in the morning as I started out. Trees were dense in this part of the trail, and I found it quite pleasant.

I’d like to point out that Nadelos Campground is managed by the BLM.

Lost Coast Trail, King Range, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, backpacking, hiking, marker, noundary,
This marked the end of the King Range State Park, which was managed by the BLM

And those trail camps (Wheeler, Little Jackass, Anderson, etc.) with toilet facilities along the trail inside Sinkyone State Park are managed by the state park although I highly doubt that they are really taken care of due to lack of staffing.

Lost Coast Trail, Needle Rock, backpacking, hiking, self-registration, day hike,
This is the Visitor Center where self registration deposit box is located in terms of using the park.

Once Ana-Lisa and Scott reached Needle Rock, where the Visitor Center is located, they paid the fees via Self Registration and turned around to make their way back to Jones Beach Campground to spend the night. And from then on, my solo trip began.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, map,
The southern section of the Lost Coast Trail mostly lies in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, which means if one spends a night at one of the main campgrounds listed, a fee applies.

The southern section of the Lost Coast Trail is 28 plus miles long. In terms of distance itself, I almost thought to myself a few times that I could finish it in 3 days if I did it about 18-20 miles each day (and then join either Ana-Lisa and/or Yura for their Half Dome day hike in Yosemite), but by the time when I reached Wheeler Campground where I spent the first night, I realized that I had a lot of ground to cover next day in order to complete it in 3 days.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, ocean view, bench, rest,
It was quite interesting to see a bench sitting in the middle of the trail. Particularly, it was declining slope of the trail, and one may wonder why. However, the view from the bench is quite impressive. The ocean view, that is. So, anyone could use a bit of rest while enjoying the view.

However, I went off trail too many times to take photos, and at the end of this trip it became a 4-day journey, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It feels like I know the trail pretty well.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, trail, ocean view, bench,
While sitting on the wooden bench that appeared literally out of nowhere, so to speak, one may really enjoy what a beautiful day has in store. The sun was so bright, and the energy level was quite high. This was barely even scratching the surface in backpacking the Lost Coast Trail.

The atmosphere was completely different from the high Sierra or our typical Southern California weather in and around San Gorgonio/San Bernardino, San Jacinto or even San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy) mountains, where I backpacked, hiked and peak bagged on almost weekly basis. It was rather humid, and the forest is very lush, green and dense.

Lost Coast Trail, trees, humid, humidity, woods, forests, green, lush, trail, backpacking, hiking
Tall trees covered with moss were everywhere… which indicates how humid it could get around here.

It was not cold and the temperature didn’t drop much at night, either. It totally reminded me of the Great Smoky mountains, where I hiked several times when I stayed in North Carolina for a few months several years ago.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, trail, coast, ocean, solo, California, Central California,
Once I got out of the lush, dense woods, it was simply an open field with the endless view of the ocean.

The views of the Pacific Ocean were just amazing from any part of the trail once the bottom of the Chamise Mountain was reached.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, ocean, ocean view, coast, California, Central California,
When I turned around and looked in the direction of where I came from, it was hard to tell. But the ocean was so beautiful, I couldn’t think of anything else. And it slowly started sinking in as to why this place is called lost coast.

The creeks are flowing with an abundant amount of water, and elk and deer are everywhere.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, trail, elk, California, Central California,
I was entering the land of elk, and they didn’t mind me watching them or taking photos of them, but certainly for the pure size of it, I didn’t want to get any closer than I had to do.

I had a very close encounter with a male elk because his herd was close to the trail (although they were actually on the other side of a creek) and I happened to hike by them. The male elk was on my side of the creek, and he was agitated by my presence. That was when it became a too close of call.

Lost Coast Trail, elk, backpacking, hiking, trail, solo,
He still was very suspicious of me as watching me walk away.

Thankfully, a group of college graduates showed up (almost out of blue) on the other side of the trail, which took the male elk’s attention away from me, and I was left alone. He decided to cross the creek and joined his herd instead. However, I could tell he was constantly watching me till I completely went out of sight.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, ocean, ocean view, blue skies, blue ocean, solo,
After a brief encounter with elk, I got out of the woods and welcomed the view of the ocean again. The world was beautiful all over again.

No bears were seen, and it made sense as to why bear canisters are not required in the Sinkyone State Park, which is where the majority of the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail lies.

Lost Coast Trail, ospreys, backpacking, hiking, coast, waves, ocean, ocean view, California, Central California,
Many wild birds, including seagulls and ospreys were seen in the sky.

A lot of ospreys, pelicans and gulls in the sky.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, wild turkeys, wild animals,
As there were deer and elk and other birds, there were also wild turkeys too. I was literally walking through our version of safari, or a zoo of wild animals. But no bears.

Also, I caught a glimpse of wild turkeys.

Lost Coast Trail, hiking, backpacking, beach, coast, ocean, ocean view,
I wished this were the beach I was going to settle in and spend the night but it wasn’t. So, I kept walking.

One of the reasons why I made so many stops and took so many photos is that it truly is an amazing place to be. These photos don’t do justice. My words can’t describe enough. One must go see himself/herself how overwhelming the experience is.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, sun, ocean,
The sun was setting slowly…

The days were still long enough that I was able to hike till almost six, and I didn’t have any problem pitching my tent when the night was settling in at Wheeler Campground.

Lost Coast Trail, animals, Wheeler Campground, campground, backpacking, hiking, solo,
I just made it to the campground, and it was not to dark yet to pitch the tent. No one was around when I arrived, and I didn’t see a sign of any animals.

It was the same campground where I spent another night (3rd night) on my way back from Usal Beach, which is the south end of the trail. It was close to the water stream. Very wide open and flat. And yet it was far enough from the beach in case ‘Tsunami’ hits.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, camping, Wheeler Campground, tsunami hazard zone,
I had never entered an area clearly marked with such a sign. So, it was quite alarming at first, but it turned out that it was just fine for the night.

Of course, at every sea level area is a Tsunami Hazard Zone anyway, it doesn’t really matter. If a Tsunami really hits, not only the beach campground but also Wheeler Campground would be wiped out anyway. Part of me just didn’t want to set up my camp right by the ocean like the college graduates did. Besides, from the beach campground where they camped, they had to walk close to about 1,000 yards to get to the stream near Wheeler. So, it was fine by me. And I kept the entire campground to myself for the night.

Lost Coast Trail, Bear Harbor Campground, beach, campground, backpacking, hiking, camping
I really wanted to spend the night at Bear Harbor Campground. The sun was still up and the beach looked so pretty. I saw a couple of kayakers riding the waves too. And there were already a couple of backpackers settled in at the best site and cooking supper. But I knew I had to keep going and gain mileage.

I might’ve considered staying at Bear Harbor Campground, which was the campground before Wheeler, but I really wanted to gain some ground on the first day, so I went on. But, I thought and still do think that Bear Harbor is the prettiest campground along the trail.

Lost Coast Trail, backpacking, hiking, beach, Bear Harbor Campground, campground, kayakers, kayaking, surfing,
It was pretty cool to watch these folks riding the waves. Wondered how they brought their kayaks though. Probably by their motor boat or sail boat.

Especially, it has a little cove where it gets medium high waves, and I saw two kayakers surfing there. I could’ve even swum there for a bit if I decided to settle there when I walked by.

At the end of the day, my Gaia app told me that I hiked 18 miles, including all the off-trail walks. Oh well, little did I know about how fun climbing up and down the next 4 hills was going to be before reaching Usal Beach next day.

Have you camped at Nadelos Campground or Wheeler Campground? What did and didn’t you like when you camped there? Have you hiked from Nadelos Campground to Visitors Center or from Visitors Center to Wheeler Campground? 

Thanks for reading.

7 COMMENTS

  1. What a fabulous experience. We spend so much time being caught up in our circles and routines and sometimes forget to get off the beaten path and out of the rut in order to recharge. I imagine this hike would have been exhausting and rejuvenating all at the same time. Beautiful pictures!

    • Vert true. Like I wrote it in the post, the Lost Coast Trail was a trip that friends and I kind of talked about but never carried out till we looked into it as a plan b, which I also love – spontaneous. It was physically demanding and yet mentally and emotionally rewarding the whole time I was backpacking. Learned a lot about myself and the things that I never knew on the trail. 🙂 Highly recommend this if you ever want to do backpacking. 🙂

Leave a Reply