Backpack The Lost Coast: Mattole to Black Sands Beach

Petrolia, California

based on 11 reviews



25.05 miles

Elevation Gain

653 ft

Route Type



Added by Whitney Whitehouse

Take in stunning coastal views along this 24 mile stretch of coastline with nicely laid out campsites and easy access to water. Need to have shuttle car (best to leave your car at Shelter Cove TH and take shuttle up). Duration: 3 days/2 nights.

This is an absolutely stunning 25 mile thru-hike on the northern part of California's coast. To accomplish this hike, you'll either need to bring 2 cars or use a shuttle service. It's recommended that you drop one car at the Shelter Cove Trailhead (40.0455053,-124.0778196) and either use one of the shuttle services to drive you up to Mattole or drive your second car up there. Keep in mind that it takes approximately 1.5 hours to drive between the two trailheads.

Along your trek, there are several places to camp for the night. This map lays out the designated areas. Be sure to pick up a more detailed one at the ranger station.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you keep an eye out for the areas that are impassible at high tide
  • Check tide charts and weather reports before heading out on the trail
  • If rain is forecasted, bring your rain gear and rain cover for your pack
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Amazing scenery and varied landscape on this hike, found the best camping spot right near the beach! Agree with everyone else, the sand hiking - although gorgeous is a ballbreaker!

Did this twice - one as a yo-yo and the other just backpacked in to Big Flat and relaxed for a couple days. The LCT is such a rad place! Saw whales, otters, sea lions, bear (tracks), foxes, turkeys, deer, jackrabbits, snakes, western fence lizards, and a whole host of birds. Definitely a place to go to see wildlife. Go in March-Aprils to see the wildflowers!

Was fortunate to have amazing weather when I went. Super light winds with early morning fog which cleared up in the afternoon (actually got sunny and warm later in the day). Rough terrain at some points - boulders, sand, ... etc. - but not too tough of a trip. Loved the fact that we were right along the coast for the whole trip. One of my favorite things about this trip was watching the fog roll over the hills in the morning. Would definitely recommend to anyone who loves that coastal norcal vibe!

Just did the 4 day trek through this gorgeous paradise. I was so stunned by the diverse coastal landscapes that we encountered. Definitely makes you feel like you are in the land before time. Saw sea lions, seals, otters. There was actually a dead baby whale at Cooksie Creek which was just wild to see in its enormity. Didn't encounter any bears but a bear canister is a MUST. Saw plenty of tracks along the beach. A few things... definitely bring some extra socks and a change of clothes. If you are ambitious and lack patience, you will probably get soaked by the tides. Parts of the trail are really fun scampering / bouldering from cove to cove. Only hike on a receding tide! Make sure you bring a tide table and time your hike. This was initially supposed to be a 3 day for us, but on day 2 we got stuck in a section that was impassible at high tide and made it a solid 2 miles that entire day due to tide timing and the sun. Also we tried to hitchhike from Black Sands Beach to Mattole - wasn't too successful and ended up paying for a shuttle. Lost Coast Shuttles with Sheri was great and ended up giving us a mini tour of everything we passed. There's also a great coffeeshop in Shelter Cove, The Fish Tank, to celebrate your conquest with a few beers.

I just wrapped up a 3 day/2 night backpacking trip on the Lost Coast Trail. It was an absolutely life changing experience for me, and I know it had a huge impact on my sister as well. It was amazing to take in all of the stunning vistas and wildlife -- deer, black bears, seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, snakes (ewww) , bunnies, eagles, and monarchs -- and even more amazing to push past our comfort zones and redefine our limits! One thing neither of us were prepared for was the extreme drop offs leading in to Sea Lion Gulch, where erosion had cut away at the trail, leaving portions only 18" wide at most on a 60-65 degree slope of loose dirt and grass dropping hundreds of feet the the rocky beach. The strong wind gusts combined with the weight of an extra 35 pounds on our backs made for an uncomfortable situation. One missed step could result in serious injury or worse. We were thankful for trekking poles that helped provide that extra sense of balance in the wind gusts. We saw backpackers each day, but mostly had the trail to ourselves, which was nice. I was surprised that we were two of only a few hikers with poles of any kind. This area has rattlesnakes, and a large section of the trail is in knee high grass and brush on both sides of the trail. We saw a baby rattler in the sand close to Randall Creek (which is stunning, btw), and I've heard of others encountering them on the trails. Besides the snakes, there is a great deal of bouldering on this trek, and the poles really help you keep a good pace when making time through the areas that are impassable at high tide, as you get that extra bit of balance on the slippery rocks, so I highly recommend them. Also, there was an abundance of activity and tracks of a mamma bear and cub, so take the bear warnings seriously. This is one amazing hike, and the payoffs are abundant throughout. Definitely not one to be missed!!!

My sister and I just did this as our first multi-day thru hike. The views are unbelievable. As said by some others, be sure to keep the tides in mind and a note that we didn't know about before heading out was how much boldering AND sand would be a part of this hike. It was an amazing challenge, but definitely tricky at some points when you're trying to beat high tide. We completed it in three days, two nights and had the time of our lives. Can't wait to take my husband back!

I had a great time doing this with my 63 year-old dad. We slowed it down a little and made it a 4 day, 3 night trip. We also went on a holiday weekend, which if you can avoid it you should; it was pretty crowded! To try to avoid the crowd, we switched our route and went from Black Sands north to Mattole. This allowed us to pass most of the traffic on the second day and get the campgrounds to ourselves on nights 2 & 3. We were warned about head wind as we approached the lighthouse, but didn't experience any. All in all a great trip that I hope to do again soon!

Did it over 3 days/2 nights, but I'd recommend 4 days/3 nights for a more leisurely pace. Amazing experience nonetheless.

Make sure to carry a tidal chart - some stretches become impassable during high tide.

Awesome views, very windy, sand can be tough hiking.

Leave No Trace

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