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The Lost Coast of California

Vistas in the Wild

Some of California's most impressive, rugged and unspoiled landscape is in what is called the "Lost Coast." The area extends from the northwest edge of Mendocino County to just south of Ferndale in Humboldt County. Much of the area is preserved in the King Range Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park which lies on the coast at the southern end of the region.

This area is so remote that there is only one organized community: Shelter Cove, in Mendocino County. The rest of the conservation area is virtually uninhabited with the King Mountains sealing it off from the east. Hiking, fishing, sea-watching and camping are the reasons people come to visit the Lost Coast. Those who take the trouble to venture into this area are impressed with rugged beauty and the truly spectacular vistas along the coastline. A 16-mile trail, in several sections, takes hikers along the coast

Getting There

There are three ways to drive into the Lost Coast. From the south, Usal Road branches off Highway 1, three miles north of the hamlet and ghost town of Rockport. This road is unsigned and unpaved. For the first six miles, Usal Road winds and rises to more than 1,000 feet and then descends to the Usal Beach Campsite.

From the east and Highway 101, take either the Garberville or Redway exits, drive through Redway and turn west on Briceland Road. After 12 miles of driving, turn on the left fork to the hamlet of Whitethorn. One mile past Whitethorn the pavement ends but you can continue on the dirt road for another 3.5 miles to the Four Corners, a junction. Left is Usal Rd. Right is a road climbing into the mountains. Drive straight ahead and you come -- in another 3.5 miles -- to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Visitor Center. This last part of the road may be impassable during winter months. The state park headquarters has trail maps and camp site information. There are camping areas at Needle Rock near the visitor center where trails lead to the beach and at the Jones Beach site. There are drive-in campsites four miles south of Needle Rock -- at Bear Harbor. This is where the road ends and the Lost Coast Trail begins. For advance information, write to the California Dept. of Parks & Recreation, Eel River District, P.O. Box 100, Weott, CA 95571.

The third access route is from the north, but this route is recommended only for intrepid drivers with 4-wheel-drive or high-clearance vehicles, and then only during the dry summer and fall months. Mattole Road runs south from the Victorian town of Ferndale, past Cape Mendocino and on toward the only community on the Lost Coast.

Shelter Cove

Shelter Cove is the only community on this 100-mile stretch of pristine wilderness. Founded around 1855 as a seaport to service the farms and interior Humboldt communities, Shelter Cove became a fishing village in 1928, when the San Francisco Fish Company bought the pier and surrounding land and started landing salmon for shipping to San Francisco. The Machi family bought the company's 40 acres and set up their own fish house. Anglers come to the cove for many reasons: deep sea fishing for salmon, ling, rock cod, red & black snapper, abalone, crab and other shellfish, as well as surf-fishing for ocean perch and rock fish. There's a sheltered boat ramp in the cove.

Shelter Cove Road provides access to the King Range Conservation Area. For current information on the trail network, contact the BLM offices in Arcata or Ukiah. The Chemise Mountain Trail is reached via Shelter Cove Rd. and Chemise Rd. Park at the Wailaki Recreation Site. The upper trail (3 miles round trip) crosses over Bear Creek and ascends 1/4 mile along a ridgetop to the top of Chemise Mtn. (2,596 feet). The trail wanders down the slope, through an old-growth Douglas fir forest and ends 1/4 mile from the beach, stopped by landslides. The walk back is a stiff climb.

The King Crest Trail is reached by taking Shelter Cove Road to Horse Mountain Road Drive continung another seven miles and turning on Saddle Mountain Road for another seven miles to the trailhead. The path leads along a ridge, through a madrone forest and up through several switchbacks. At a junction, the right fork leads to Maple Camp and water. The left fork leads to the summit and magnificent views -- a five-mile round trip.

Where To Eat

Cove Restaurant
10 Seal Court (707-986-1197)
Situated right on the waterfront, The Cove is a good place for families or couples to dine in a relaxed atmosphere. Seafood is the specialty, altgough other dishes are served including steaks and hearty dinner salads. Wine by the glass is available from a very good winelist).

Delgada Pizza & Bakery
205 Wave Drive (707-986-7672)
Open for all three meals, Delgada is a handy place to have breakfast featuring freshly baked pastries. For lunch and dinner, Pizza is the attraction. The restaurant has inside and outside dining.

Airport Deli
492 Machi Road (707-986-7474)
There are two things that made this cafe and market famous with ocals and visitors: the fish & chips, and their Deli sandwiches. This is a funky place, where you can purchase camping supplies and also get a great plate of fish & chips. Other specialties include hamburgers and accompaniments including onion rings and French fries. That's about it. Go for the fish & chips. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where to Stay

Shelter Cove Beachcomber Inn
412 Machi Road (707-986-7733)
The Beachcomber Inn has units with brass beds, fireplaces, stoves and kitchenettes in some of the rooms. THis motel is not on the waterfront but it has a pleasant rustic rural ambience. The prices are reasonable, compared to other places in the village.

Inn of the Lost Coast
205 Wave Drive (707-986-7521 or 888-570-9676 toll-free)
The views are great, from this inn perched on a cliff a few feet from the ocean. The rooms are large and comfortable. The hotel has a coffee house and pizza restaurant on-site. deluxe suites are available. There's an outside hot tub. The hotel is pet-friendly.

The Tides Inn
59 Surf Point (707-986-7900 or 888-99TIDES toll-free)
This is also a hotel perched at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the ocean. All rooms and one suite have the ocean view. All rooms have refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee maker, and other amenities. The suite has a king bedroom and a complete kitchen and living room that sleeps more people on a queen pull-down bed.

The Spyglass Inn at Shelter Cove
118 Dolphin Drive (707-986-4030)
This condo-style is a small boutique hotel that offers superb accommodations and gracious, friendle service from the couple that owns the hotel. The four suites all have kitchens

Mario's Marina
533 Machi Road
(707-986-7595) has a nine-unit motel in addition to a cafe and store beside the marina that services sport fishermen with gas, supplies and bait. The motel offers basic accommopdations, nothing special in an old fashioned atmosphere but prices are reasonable.


People with trailers and RVs head for the Shelter Cove RV Park & Campground (707-986-7474) which has 103 serviced sites, picnic tables, deli, showers, guest laundry, and propane.

Those who prefer to camp in public campgrounds should head for Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, or to a more primitive campsite in the King Range Wilderness.

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