Backpack to Jackass Creek, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park



13.8 miles

Elevation Gain

2000 ft

Route Type


Added by Sean Jansen

An extension southward from the infamous Lost Coast, Sinkyone delivers ocean views as far as the eye can see. Migratory whales, old growth redwoods, the sweet smell of wild flowers, and a beach campsite all to yourself.

The Lost Coast is infamous. For its name alone draws visitors from around California and the world. A 26-mile stretch of coast, road less, with a wall like mountain range just yards from the ocean and beach. But with the Lost Coast being what it is, there is a lesser-known, yet equally stunning hiking option that still entails the spirit and adventure of the coast yet only a stones throw to the south.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is still part of the Lost Coast Trail system. It is connected just to the south of the town of Shelter Cove and extends southward, winding through wide-open coastline, old growth redwoods, and thickets of blackberry bushes. But if there is one thing this section of the Lost Coast Trail has over its popular northern counterpart is its unpopularity.

But with that being said, perhaps there is a reason. To me, that reason is simply the adventure of just getting to the trailhead. We eventually made it to the Needle Rock Visitor Center, the start and registration area for our overnight adventure after an hour and a half drive from Highway 101. Up and over the Kings Range, through old growth redwoods and down an extremely windy and pot hole ridden dirt road. But upon our arrival, we were greeted with breeching whales, a breathless ocean sunset, and one of the most unreal car camping sites.

The next morning was our date to begin hiking. The trail system in Sinkyone is a simple there and back jaunt of over 19.3 miles from Needle Rock to Usal Beach. Our objective was only to Jackass Creek, a mere 6.9 of those 19 miles to a beachside backcountry site. The trail actually begins as a closed, run down section of the Bear Harbor Rd. (The windy dirt road with pot holes from Shelter Cove), for 2.4 miles until you reach Bear Harbor itself. Popular among backpackers as well as sea kayakers, this bay is wonderfully protected against the often times strong winds.

We continued south for another 4.6 miles or so, climbing up into the foothills, switch backing down to the coast, crossing small creeks, smelling the spring bloom of wildflowers, and sadly getting torn to pieces by thistle and black berry bushes. It was hot the day we hiked and needed to wear pants simply for protection against thorn bushes. But it was all worth it once we reached Jackass Creek and the beach it pours into. A small, empty beach campsite with fresh water and driftwood scattered everywhere for a small fire to take place. A bench for cooking and enjoying the sunset, as well as the simple sounds of nature without another soul in sight.

Nearly 7 miles of somewhat bush whacking, flower picking, redwood gazing, and whale watching adventure on the Lost Coast Trail all to ourselves. We cowboy camped next to the fire pit and took solace in the billion stars above us as we moved with the orbit to sunrise. Our goal was only to this creek then to head back on the same trail. There is much more to be discovered along with other bays to be slept at. Another tick on the calendar for when the stars align again to explore Sinkyone. 

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Known for

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area



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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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