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Lost Coast 4x4 Trail

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

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.



Route Overview


Trip Length & Season

Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length: 2 - 4 days, 177 miles Season: Late May - October (Usal Road is gated during the wet season, check Mendocino County dept of transportation for closure status).

Technical Ratings & Terrain

Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans

Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear

Alternative Routes

Camping Recommendations

Discovery Points

Permits, Papers & Resources


Adventure Badge Get your Lost Coast adventure badge (decal or patch) at our online store.



 

Route Details

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).


Camping Recommendations

Driving vehicles on Usal Beach is prohibited per CA State Parks. Please recreate responsibly and setup camp off of the beach in a designated site. 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.

  • Usal Beach

  • Mattole Beach

  • Needle Rock

  • Bear Harbor

  • Humboldt State Redwoods (any campground, gets busy!)

  • Wailaki Campround

  • Nadelos (walk-in sites)

  • Tolkan Campground

  • AW Way County Park (if Mattole Beach is full)


Alternative Routes


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.


Recommended Maps

Download Digital Mapping Files



 

Gallery



Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by overlandtrailguides.com, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.


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8 Comments


Does anyone know if this can be driven from North to South?

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Unknown member
Oct 05, 2023
Replying to

Yes it can. I just did this route North to South September 16th thru the 20th, 2023. Did it in my GMC Canyon with a 2" lift and BF Goodrich KO2 no problem. Did the Usal Rd from Briceland Rd into the Sinkyone State Park (Usal Beach) and it was epic. rough road but doable as of this date.

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ramscheermom
ramscheermom
Jun 23, 2022

Just finished this trail today in my Subaru Crosstrek- 1.5" lift and Falken AT's. Had a blast, but a few hiccups. There is tree down somewhere between Usal and Needle Rock that the Ranger told us would make it impassable but he didn't care if we took a look. My car made it through with a spotter (and a rooftop tent) but nothing bigger will. This was also by far the roughest portion of the trail. Instead, you can head back to HWY 1 from Usal and take a left at Briceland Rd. which will take you right in to 4 corners. When we got to 4 corners, the road to Needle Rock was still open due to a few…

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Drove this route May 27th-30th; 4X4 F350 Diesel PU, 4X4 Dodge PU and a Honda CRV 5-speed. Air down to 12 psi for Usal beach. The trails were mostly dry. It did rain all day on the 28th and the morning of the 29th. The CRV did fine. The road between Usal Rd and the Needle Rock Ranger Staion will be closed June to October 2022. We stayed at Usal Beach campground, Tolken campground and the Matole campground at the wet end of Lighthouse Rd.


Sgt Packer (Retired)

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Replying to

Good morning sgt Packer. First off, thank you for your service. As for the trail, IsThe road wide enough for my 19’ ram dually?

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I was just recently made aware of this trip. I'm not so concerned about road conditions, ruts, rocks, etc. but I am driving a dually pickup. Will it fit?

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Matt
Matt
Sep 11, 2021

Just finished this route the last week of August as our first multiday trip as a family. Met a few folks doing the same out there. Took a 4x4 Tacoma. Appreciate the effort put into this! The views and experience were worth the drive from San Diego. The offshoot up Saddle Mountain pass was a bit more adventurous than most of the route due to steepness, ruts, rocks, and the narrow trail. For fullsize trucks, it would have been really snug. It's easy to bypass if you're wanting to stay on the main road. We also took time off to go mid-week as we were concerned with all the sites being first come first serve. For a Monday, Usal stil…

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