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From beaches to high peaks commanding outstanding vistas, the King Range Wilderness is the wildest portion of the California coast. Indeed, the King Range is the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States outside of Alaska. Botanists consider the region's dune system extremely unique in that the aggressive introduced European dune grass has not yet encroached, as it has on most coastal dunes north of San Francisco. Rare coastal ancient forests of Douglas fir, madrone, and tan oak dominate the Honeydew Creek watershed. Endangered species include leafy reedgrass, California brown pelican, steelhead trout, Chinook and Coho salmon, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, northern spotted owl, and Roosevelt elk. The California Coastal Trail traverses the entire length of the area. In 2000, President Clinton designated the rocks and islands just offshore as the California Coast National Monument. Mountains, forests, streams, and coastal bluffs of the King Range Wilderness provide homes for the bald eagle, American peregrine falcon, osprey, spotted owl, Roosevelt elk, otter, gray fox, black bear, and other wildlife.

The word epic is overused often in the backpacking realm, but this trail is absolutely epic. We did it at the end of May, perfect weather. Parked the rental on the south end, took the shuttle north. While there arent any sudden rugged elevation changes, the varying terrain makes it more challenging than one might initially think. Wet sand, dry sand, small pebble beaches, boulder fields, you name it.
There is no shortage of fresh water, making it a much lighter trek than usual. I carried less than 1 liter at all times, and just filtered on the go at each fresh water crossing.
The prevailing wind makes it seem cooler then it really is, and makes the sun seem less intense, so don't underestimate sunscreen.
If you're thinking about going, stop thinking and just go. The sunsets will blow your mind.

backpacking
6 days ago

Amazing hike. Beautiful sunsets. I got lulled in by the hard trail intermixed with the sand. The last 5-6 miles are all sand so plan accordingly. We saw an otter carrying a large fish to her pups who scampered away as we came over a ridge, countless deer but didn't see the seals that so many mention.

backpacking
8 days ago

Great view of the coast and the forest along the trail. Get used to walking through sand and rocks though

This hike was absolutely gorgeous. I arrived at Shelter Cove around noon and made sure everything was nice and tight on my pack. I met with the shuttle and we left at about 12:30. After a gorgeous 2 hour drive filled with stories about the area, I arrived at the trailhead at 2:30. I immediately set off and made it to the lighthouse pretty quickly. After departing from there, I met two rangers. The first thing out of their mouth was "Can I see your permit?", so I can't stress enough, make sure you have one. I lost track of time for awhile, seeing nobody at all, and just took in the beauty of the place. I set up my tent near Randall Creek and enjoyed some hot food while watching the sun go down. The next morning, I was up and back on the trail right around day break. This time, I took a much slower pace, and even needed to stop for awhile to wait for the tide to go down. My second night was spent at Buck Creek, where I met a wily world traveler who I'll refer to as "Alaska Mike". We sat around the fire and swapped stories late into the night. The next day, the entire hike was sand and rocks, but with fantastic views all the way back to the parking lot at Shelter Cove. I think next time I'll go much slower, as I finished in less than 48 hours. All in all, I'd definitely recommend this hike. It's a beautiful bit of coastline that offers a few days away from cell phone service, smog, and the noise of city life.

Where to start..flew from Texas to SF and drove 5 hours to hike this trail and would do it again. I was going to try describe this beauty of this trek but I cannot. If your thinking about it just do it. You will be glad you did.

backpacking
14 days ago

Beautiful backpacking trip in mid-70s to low 80 degree weather - Indian summer is the right time to do this hike.

Incredibly dreamy backpacking trip. Probably one of my all time favorite locations in California. I went during labor day weekend, and there were a lot of people who had the same idea. Sunrises and sunsets are not to be missed here. There is some rampant poison oak near the big crane flat area. As other users have mentioned impassable areas during high tide means that you'll prob do some minor rock climbing to get through the area if you're like me and didn't really plan around tide. :P

Absolutely loved it!

I would take 4 days as well. the tidal areas can get a little tense. and the ground varies between sand and soccer ball sized rocks. so I would recommend good shoes.They say no camp fires but it seemed everyone had them. doggie shoes and pack are a must.

I recommend that you take at least 4 days to enjoy this hike. There is so much to see, between the tide pools and the surrounding mountains. But the footing can be uneven, so it is easy to walk by without even looking up.

If you can stand slogging through miles of sand it is a beautiful trail! Lots of fresh water and campsites.

Totally awesome hike. Beautiful secluded beaches. Do it in two days, not three if you're a decent hiker.

Overwhelmingly beautiful. Long may it last.

Great backpacking trail! Hard 2 day, easy 3 day. Lots of fresh water outlets for refilling water bottles. Could not say enough great things about this trail!

amazing views, a tough but rewarding hike. I do it every year.