Backpacking, Unique Trees, Quiet Towns, and More.
The Pacific Ocean-wrapped, tree-covered, and ruggedly steep geography of the region made it fiscally impossible to build county roads and state highways. The area also experienced a severe decline in population in the 1930’s after the Stock Market Crash in 1929. This makes towns like Whitehorn, Shelter Cove, and Petrolia some of the most quiet and secluded that you’ll find on the West Coast.
If you are looking for an experience where you can see the beauty of the natural world at every turn, and stay in quaint historical towns, you’ll want to explore these stunningly beautiful destinations. There are a plethora of amazing activities for the whole family and people of all ages. What follows are some highlights you can find when you get there.
The 50-mile long Lost Coast Trail is a backpacker’s and hiker’s dream. Visitors can trek the whole trail or break it up into more manageable segments. The newest part of the trail is at its most southern part. Located in a magical area called Shady Dell, the Peter Douglas Trail is 2.3 miles long and extends the original Lost Coast Trail.
The Mendocino Land Trust designed and built the Peter Douglas Trail, collaborating with the Save the Redwoods League. It’s here that you will find yourself beneath the gnarled and interwoven limbs of aged Redwoods. Mighty trees that were shaped by centuries of whipping wind and stinging salt into the likeness of a candelabra, earning them the name, Candelabra Redwoods.
The southern portion of the trail starts just outside Westport at Usal Beach and stretches 22 miles through the ups and downs of the hill-studded backcountry to Needle Rock Visitor Center. You can use Highway 1 north of Westport to get to Usal Beach.
The middle section of the trail is a 9-mile ascent and descent of Chemise Mountain which stands 2,598 feet tall. The trail starts at Needle Point and ends at the trailhead on the road to Shelter Cove. You are now in the King Range National Conservation Area. Driving access is via Shelter Cove Road off Highway 101.
The northern part of the trail picks up in Shelter Cove at Black Sands Beach, made famous from its black sands formed by a dark compressed shale that comes from the tectonic activity of two ocean plates and a continental one. The trail ends 25, mostly sandy beach covered miles at Mattole Beach on the Mattole River. This is the easiest and most popular section of the trail. Accessed by vehicle on Shelter Cove Road or Mattole Road.
For a hike that is less strenuous and shorter there is a three- mile-long round trip from the terminus of the Lost Coast Trail that ends at the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. A perfect selfie spot.
There are other natural areas you can visit for all your outdoor activities and enjoyment as well. To the southeast of Shelter Cove is the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the northeast.
There are great options for lodging in Shelter Cove. You can stay at The Inn of the Lost Coast, Spyglass Inn at Shelter Cove, The Tides Inn or The Castle Inn of the Lost Coast. There is also the Shelter Cove RV Park and Campground for those who like to rough it or are traveling by Motorhome. While you are there you can find meals and refreshment at The Gyppo Ale Milland Mario’s Marina Bar.
There are three beaches where you can catch some rays and watch the waves: Cove Beach, Little Black Sands Beach, and Black Sands Beach. And no stop in Shelter Cove would be complete without popping into the Shelter Cove General Store.
Another great Lost Coast town experience can be had in Ferndale. The Victorian-influenced buildings of Main Street make for an authentic small town shopping stroll and is a must for architecture aficionados. Here you can stay at the Victorian Inn Hotel, the Francis Creek Inn, or the B&B-style Shaw House Inn. To ease your hunger and slake your thirst check out Frog Alley Cellars and the No Brand Burger Stand.
There are two lighthouses to be found on the Lost Coast as well. Cape Mendocino Lighthouse is the largest of its kind in the United States coming in at 422 feet above sea level. The other is the aforementioned Punta Gorda Lighthouse.
For anyone looking for a scenic drive, Shelter Cove Road winds its way through 22 miles of Redwoods, Douglas fir, and wildflowers, from Thorn Junction to Shelter Cove. Plan for an hour of drive time. Mattole Road also makes for a great drive. Starting in Petrolia it heads north and hugs the coast with stunning views of the Pacific up to Capetown before heading east to Ferndale. This 29-mile jaunt will take over an hour.
As you can see, there is plenty to see and do when you find yourself on the Lost Coast of Northern California.