Backpack to King's Peak from Shelter Cove

Rate this Adventure San Francisco Black Sands Beach Trailhead

Added by Aja Pete

Challenge and immerse yourself in nature with this gorgeous, grueling adventure.

After parking at Shelter Cove and securing a camping permit ($3 per night in the backcountry) follow the bear prints down the coastline for 5 miles, keeping in mind that the tide devours the beach every 12 hours. Parts of the beach become impassable at high tide.

Camp overnight at Buck Creek, the idyllic conjunction of a rushing mountain stream and the gently crashing ocean, before heading north another 3 miles to Big Flat, a popular destination for surfers, which will require hip deep fording of Big Flat Creek, depending on the season. From there you'll cut inland on the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, and begin climbing the King Range, culminating at King's Peak, which soars 5800 feet above sea level. Due to rain and erosion, parts of the trail have been washed away. Both the map and trail guide below will be invaluable assets in finding your way.

To get there, you'll first pass through 2 miles of lush, dripping Fern Gully-esque forest, camping after you cross the North Fork of Big Flat Creek, before heading 3 miles up the mountain over 2400 feet to Bear Camp. Despite an impressive elevation, this camp floods easily, and was too exposed for a comfortable winter evening. Spend the night instead at Maple Camp to celebrate your 17th mile, a welcome respite enclosed in pine trees near a bone chillingly delicious stream.

Scale King's Peak the following morning, and leisurely descend the King Crest Trail until it meets the Buck Creek Trail, taking you back to Buck Camp to soak in the sunset. Depending on trail detours and side trips, you've hit your 22nd mile. Rise with the dawn to enjoy a chorus of otter pups frolicking in the rushing waters of Buck Creek before heading back to Shelter Cove with the morning's low tide.

Pack List

  • Permit (can be filled out at the Shelter Cove parking lot)
  • Map (Wilderness Press: California's Lost Coast)
  • Trail guide (Backpacking California)
  • Tent (ultralight is best)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • 50 liter backpack (minimum)
  • Cold weather gear
  • Rain gear
  • Clothes/shoes for fording streams
  • Bear box
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Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fitness, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Rock Climbing, Stand Up Paddle, Surfing, Survival

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



25 Miles

Elev. Gain:

5800 Feet


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole

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Added by Aja Pete

I'm that girl you find on every trail crouched in the loam trying to get a macro shot of a banana slug.

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