Lost Coast

Lost Coast

Lost Coast: West Coast’s Wildest Shore

The fabled Lost Coast, the longest stretch of wild shore on the continental West Coast, is far from any urban areas, so despite its natural beauty, the region remains hardly known. However, it should be noted that it has inspired great minds and adventurers from all walks of life.

Best-selling author and monk Thomas Merton was so enthralled he wrote his final book about the place, where he hoped to place a monastery. The best surfers beach hike for miles, their boards strapped on their backs, to ride the perfect break along the wave world’s worst kept secret, Big Flat.

Along this lonely strand of almost 100 miles, where the largest congregations are of elephant seals and sea lions, only Shelter Cove, a settlement of a hardy few hundred, attests to human civilization.

From the Eureka airport, one may drive 100 miles south on Hwy 101 and then Briceland Road to reach this outpost, flanked by the King Range mountains, the fastest growing the world, well, tied with the Himalayans. The Kings offer a wonderland for hikers and bikers, the latter drawn to the Paradise Royale trail, which Bike Magazine called one of the single track rides in America.

Beachcombers claim deserted turf all their own for miles, whether starting at Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove and heading north or, from Camp Mattole, heading south to the Punta Gordo Light Station, known as the Alcatraz of Lighthouses.

Zealous outdoorsy types, after being dropped off from a local shuttle, do three or four days from Cape Mendocino to Shelter Cove during the more temperate months, equipped with tide charts to ensure they beat the sporadic beach bottlenecks when high tide rolls in.

The prevailing northerly winds make it best to hike from north to south. The best times are from early summer  to autumn. Otherwise, the Black Sands and Camp Mattole afternoon samples are recommended. No matter the time, be mindful of current weather and wave conditions. The Lost Coast is nature at its most primeval and awesome.

Whether epic or easy, Lost Coast hikers that wind up in Shelter Cove are rewarded with a small but surprisingly sophisticated town that, along with bait shop and fishing boats for hire, features upscale beachfront hotels, a good coffee and pizza shop and a microbrew with highly praised fine dining.

Between Eureka and Shelter Cove, a good place to take a break and load on supplies is Ferndale, the best preserved Victorian village in California. Main Street features shops with keepsakes and curios, cafes, a market and the Ferndale Meat Company, which has served up heaping sandwiches for more than 100 years. It’s where Food network host Guy Fieri got his start in the business, loading beef jerky into the smoker outside as a kid.

Check out the Avelo Route Map for more information on Flights to Eureka / Arcata, CA.