My husband and I just returned from a very rustic camping adventure in the King Range National Conservation Area. This area in northern California is called the Lost Coast as it’s remote and seems hidden from the world. Historic Highway 1 that meanders up the coastline bypasses this area as the highway builders thought that it would be too difficult to build a road amongst the mountains, hills, and cliffs. This is one of the most remote regions that I’ve ever been to, even though it is only 40 miles or so from “civilization”. I live near Yosemite National Park and most areas of the park are not as remote as this area. It mostly has to do with the windy and dangerous roads that you have to take to get there. Due to the remote-ness of the area, people try live self sustainably there and there are few tourists. The travellers that venture there are ones that are ready for adventure, like the 25 mile hike along the coastline that will take you a mininum of three days to hike and is not accessible by vehicles. I am not that adventurous, but I like camping and being out of commercial areas and away from hordes of annoying tourists, so the Lost Coast was definitely the place for me to be!
We camped the first two nights at the Mattole Beach Campground. Our campsite was only separated by a sand dune and there were few people there. We did not know what to expect as there is not much info online about this campground or anywhere in the King Range. Maybe they do this to keep people out? For instance, you may notice these cylindrical bear-proof cannisters that we thought we were supposed to rent. Well, only the backpackers who venture into the wild need those…. We didn’t see a single BLM ranger or law enforcement officer (or vehicle!) the entire time we were out there. It’ seems this area is self-governed and is mostly a cash society.
The Mattole Beach is a gorgeous stretch of coastline. Unfortunately it is cold there and the water is very rough, so it’s not much of a beach if you like to lay in the sun or go swimming. Even just wading in it a bit seemed hazardous!
The main road to get to Mattole Beach from Ferndale (and Highway 101) is the most picturesque road that I’ve ever been on. It meanders along the coastline and seems barely touched by man. There are cows grazing along the shore and unprecedented scenic views. It is without the onslaught of tourists and is a road you can go slow on an enjoy the views. That is…. until you reach the twisty topsy turvy roads that take you over the hills and away from the coast. Some of them seem to go straight up the hillside with some of the steepest grades that I’ve ever seen. It’s not a drive for beginners, but is well worth it. We took another road from 101 to get into the King Range that took us through old growth redwoods and down very dangerous one lane roads that seemed to go in 360 degree turns. Luckily, we did not have to go back down that road…. I pretty much held on for dear life and shut my eyes as Brian drove down it. I guess that’s why it was not a recommended road although it looked like a shortcut!
After camping at Mattole Beach, we ventured through the communities of Petrolia and Honeydew over to Shelter Cove, which was a HUGE change. Shelter Cove is easier to get to as the road is wider, less windy and well maintained and thus being so, it is turning into a bit of tourist destination and retirement community. There are these ludicrous houses with four and five stories propped up on the coastline and commercialism. It is far different from the rest of the King Range area which has farms and ranches scattered within the remote wilderness.
This lighthouse was so cute! It was in San Francisco and transported to Shelter Cove piece by piece and put back together!
We stayed in the redwoods at the Wailaki campground, which, fortunately was nearly deserted and far away from the hustle and bustle of Shelter Cove. When I say “hustle and bustle”, it is nothing like, say the beach resort towns of Santa Cruz and Monterey, but it seems like it compared to the rest of the area.
In case you wondered, two dogs came with us!
As much as I love camping, I think once a year is plenty for me. After nearly a week of sleeping on the ground and taking “spit baths” (as my grandma calls them…) or trying to bathe in a creek or river, I enjoy a hot shower and a comfy bed too much! I have some more photos to share of our travels, but I think this is enough for now.