Updated: Dec 26, 2020
With its old growth redwood forests, spectacular coastal mountains, and rugged coastline, the Lost Coast might just be the quintessential overland adventure of Northern California.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 2 - 4 days, 177 miles
Season: April - October (some roads close during the wet season)
Technical Rating: Green to very mild blue
Typical Terrain: Dirt forest roads with a few steep sections, as well as some mild erosion and ruts between Usal and Four Corners. Mud may be prevalent after heavy rains, especially in Sinkyone State Park. Some Pavement along some lesser used backroads.
Recommended Vehicle: Crossover with AWD and all terrain tires.
Adventure Vans: Yes!
Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route details.
Need a Rig?
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TopoTerra (San Diego)
Big Sur seems to get all the fanfare when it comes to California's coastline. In just the past decade, more and more adventurers have come to recognize Northern California's Lost Coast as the other jewell along California's coastline. And unlike Big Sur, you won't find Highway 1 running along the coast here. If massive redwoods, wild beaches, and rugged emerald mountains are your thing, then you'll love this overland adventure! If you're lucky, you might even spot one of the Roosevelt Elk herds in Sinkyone State Park (Usal Beach, Needle Rock, and Bear Harbor are popular viewing spots). The route begins on Highway 1, about 29 miles north of Fort Bragg just before Highway 1 heads east before it conjoins with Highway 101. The southern section (Sinkyone State Park) is dominated by mixed conifer forests consisting mostly of Douglas fir and coast redwood. Usal Beach is a great place to camp on your first night, but it tends to fill up on weekends during the warmer months. If you're looking to get away from the crowds, then consider setting up camp at one of the sites around Bear Harbor. As you make your way north, you'll come to the old fishing village of Shelter Cove. Shelter Cove provides its share postcard worthy views. Consider making stops at Black Sands Beach and the old Cape Mendocino Lighthouse. As you leave Shelter Cove, you'll enter the the most rugged section of the King Range (managed by BLM), which is one of the most seismically active regions in California. The section along Saddle Mountain Road rewards the intrepid traveller with spectacular vistas over the Pacific and the best view of King's Peak (namesake peak of the King Range) along the route. Mattole Beach is a great place to set up camp, but if that's full, consider heading over to A.W. Way County Park a few miles up the road. The final leg of the journey goes from Mattole Beach to Eureka, which is an old paved road that's surrounded by rolling hills of green coastal prarie and dairy farms. You've probably worked up quite the appetite at this point! Why not reward yourself with a fresh local brew and meal at the award winning Lost Coast Brewery and Taproom in downtown Eureka.
If you want to see some truly gargantuan redwoods, we recommend taking a look at the Lost Coast Route #2, which incorporates Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Avenue of the Giants (scroll down).
Land managers require camping in designated campgrounds along the Lost Coast. Certain campgrounds (Humboldt Redwoods, Mattole) fill up in the summer, so plan your adventure accordingly.
Humboldt State Redwoods (any campground, gets busy!)
AW Way County Park (if Mattole Beach is full)
Usal Beach to Humboldt Redwoods and Ave of the Giants
This alternative adventure covers much of the same track as route #1, except that it heads inland at the Mattole River and into Humboldt Redwoods State Park. With the largest contiguous old-growth redwood forest in the world, you may want to spend a couple of days in the park. Plan ahead, as all of the campgrounds in the park are typically reserved in advance. The route concludes with a drive along Avenue of the Giants.
Maps + Navigation
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (base map layer)
Download GPX files
TIP: To expose alternative routes in Google Maps, open the sidebar and select the desired layer.