Lost Coast Trail: Mattole to Black Sands Beach

MODERATE 91 reviews
#1 of 16 trails in

Lost Coast Trail: Mattole to Black Sands Beach is a 25.3 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Ferndale, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
25.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1578 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

dog friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

beach

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

A backpacking trip along California's most undeveloped stretch of shoreline. The Lost Coast is an 80 mile stretch of the California coast where the builders of Highway 1 decided to go around because it was too rough. This trip takes you down the Lost Coast starting at Mattole and ending at Black Sands Beach. This is a one way hike, so you need to shuttle a car to the end and then drive to the beginning. If you don't want to bring two cars, a shuttle service will pick you up at Black Sands Beach and shuttle you and your gear to Mattole (about 2 hours driving away) so you can hike back to your car.

backpacking
1 month ago

About 7 of us and my dog did this entire trip just last weekend. March 16-19, 2018. It was incredible. We expected rain but ended up with perfect blue skies and warm weather.
Creeks were high but still passable. Always expect to get wet on this trip. If you pack and dress appropriately then its not even an issue.
The campsites are defined by the fire pits alone the bluffs. I would seriously not recommend camping on the beach. The sand is manageable but the sand fleas are a nightmare. They are active all night. It almost sounds like it’s raining out the tent.
The wildlife was amazing. We saw seals and elephant seals, sea otters, tons of cool shorebirds, and even blow holes from the whales passing in the distance.
Shuttle from the south end to the north end. The road is rough and it’s better to leave the driving to the experts.
And take notes from other blogs. This trail is hard. 10 miles on flat ground is easy but the loose rock and sand turns 2 full steps into about 1 1/2 steps. Even the fastest hiker is slowed down.
I would not recommend for any dog’s first backpacking trip. By the last day my dog was sore and tired. He’s only two. Booties are required for all dogs. I took my dogs booties off at campsites or short stretches of soft sand. His feet were still tender afterwards but far better than being cut up and beaten.

backpacking
2 months ago

Easily one of the most epic backpacking trips in NorCal. A rugged, oceanside trail, like no other. I wrote about it more extensively in my blog post here: https://slugpace.com/lost-coast-trail/

2 months ago

we went in August and there was plenty of water sources. there wasn't that much poison oak. when there was it was avoidable.tons of wildlife. amazing trip.

backpacking
5 months ago

best california beach experience out there. bring extra socks!

backpacking
5 months ago

Excellent trail but it is mostly sand and wet jagged rocks with lots of boulder hopping and walking on gravel. You can easily slip at any point in this trail and get severely injured.

Day 2 from cooksie creek to big flats creek was the best.

I recommend against taking your dog it is extremely dangerous for them. You will have to carry them at certain points where you need to cross jagged shale steps. If you do take a dog that dog needs to have the best endurance (handle sun exposure, Must have boots and have used them before). Do not take your dog unless it has previous experience with extremely difficult terrain.

backpacking
6 months ago

beautiful trail! views are amazing and it's a very unique trail! lots of sand and pebble trail walking.

backpacking
7 months ago

Great backpacking route. My girlfriend and myself did it early Sept 2017. A couple things to consider before going: 1) the road to get to mattole from Redway is terrible- have a vehicle with decent ground clearance. 2) If you are someone who doesn't enjoy a good physical challenge, this might not be your trail. The hiking at an angle along the sand takes a tole on your hips, and ankles. 3) the first section of impassible at high tide there aren't really any areas to escape if you mistimed the tide, the second section there are a couple areas where you can escape. 4) Very little protection from the sun/wind, so be prepared with sunscreen and wind protective gear if it's windy. 5) If you shuttle, consider leaving your car at the bottom, and shuttling to Mattole.
I wish we would have done this! Overall a gorgeous hike. Recommend it to any outdoor enthusiast!

7 months ago

Best 3 days of my life! Don't forget your tide guide, keep hydrated. Many terrains, creek crossings, hillsides, fields and whole lot of beach.

8 months ago

Went at the end of July. I am ready to go again! We pushed through in 3 days, but I'd love to do a lot of side hikes and take 5 days to enjoy it even more. Saw tons of seals, a bear, and plenty of starfish!
We clocked it at 34 miles and we did not stray far from the coastline, anyone else experience that?

backpacking
8 months ago

The Lost Coast is definitely my favorite backpacking trip I have done so far. My Dad and I hiked this in 3 days/2 nights. We hiked 12 miles on day 1, 8 miles on day 2, and 4 miles on day 3. I really recommend doing as many miles as you can on the first day to have an easy hike out the last day because it is all sand over the last stretch. The best part of the trip was getting the chance to see a bear! We started day 3 around 7AM and about an hour in, we hear movement through the bushes on the ridge to our left and turns out it was a bear cub! Bears are really out there so be cautious of your food and scented items. If you are thinking about this hike, go do it! You will not regret hiking the Lost Coast.

backpacking
8 months ago

Amazing hike! Definitely need a tide chart for this one, but if you take the shuttle, you can ask them ahead of time for one. Our driver adjusted the tide chart the morning of the hike. Each day was adjusted and it definitely came in handy. We had a slow Day 1 on the trail and got stuck at the overland pass at the start of the first impassable zone. Instead of hiking back and setting up camp for the night, we waited until the tide was receding to start a sunset/night hike through the tide zone and another 2 to the Spanish Flats. It was mildly dangerous, but we had headlamps and were able to hike under the Milky Way. Definitely my favorite part of the trip.

hiking
8 months ago

Only took the trail to the lighthouse. Hard to know exactly where trail is...lots of walking on sand which is a bit disorienting and takes energy and time. The lighthouse is viewable from the spot marked on the map, but it was at least another mile before we reached it. I would recommend trying it out, but be prepared for a lot of walking on sand (wear proper shoes) and a longer walk to the lighthouse than was shown on the app.

backpacking
8 months ago

I've hiked this trail several times it has been different each time due to tides winds and rains. You never know what's going to happen. A true adventure trail

backpacking
8 months ago

Can't wait to do it again!

backpacking
8 months ago

My first backpacking trip! What a beautifully challenging and rewarding journey!

Awesome stuff..

I keep writing an actual review, but it's not saving here. sorry folks!

backpacking
9 months ago

The Lost Coast is interesting. It has a mix of terrain unlike any other place I have backpacked. You go from brown fine sand to small gravel to larger gravel back to fine sand and then walking through a field to then go boulder hopping and then finish with fine black sand. The great part about it is that when you are getting sick of walking on one type of terrain, it will change in another mile. If you bring your dog please, please, please bring booties.
You do need to watch out for rattlesnakes, scorpions and poison oak when settling down for the night. We encountered each of these.
We started off camping in Mattole Friday night and set off early Saturday morning and hiked 12 miles the first day, about 10 the second day and 3 the last day. If you camp at Mattole bring a jug of water to start out your morning, the spigots there do not work but the first stream is about 2 miles away so you can make it.
I do recommend getting an official map of the area, it totally helps you navigate if you do not take a shuttle and decide to leave one car at Mattole and the other at Black Sands.

backpacking
9 months ago

This hike is amazing! We started at 6PM On a Thursday and were back at our car at 1PM on Saturday. We planned to take longer but didn't want to stop hiking at noon on day 2. The hike is stunning and we saw so many animals.
The sand and rocks however are NO JOKE! The last 7ish miles are ALL on the beach!! So beautiful but damn that makes it hard. Timing the mileage with the tide, however, ended up being super easy. Definitely would recommend this Trail!

9 months ago

Hi, I'am a kiteboarder looking to set up a kiteboard trip down the Lost Coast. I need some help with some wind readings down the trail from Mattole beach to Shelter Cove. I would gladly pay someone hiking the trail this summer to collect the data for me by a smartphone wind sensor app. I would also be interested in a written description of the wind from a hike you did already, specifically during the summer months.
Give me an email if interested.

Thanks
George Ward
PASA Kiteboarding Instructor
Air Pirates
Astoria, OR
undertow2u@gmail.com

backpacking
9 months ago

Absolutely loved the combination of massive hills on one side of you and a endless ocean on the other while walking on the trail. Doesn't feel fantastic walking in the sand for many miles, but eventually you get use to it and the hike is totally worth it. Would suggest to everyone.

backpacking
9 months ago

Gorgeous hike! Definitely will not leave you wanting for epic and diverse views.

A few things to note/tips:
-plan ahead and book a shuttle from black sands parking lot to get you to the mattole trailhead. park at black sands. $80/pp for the shuttle and it takes 2 hours to get you to the trailhead.
-there are basically no trail markers for the Lost coast trail. So bring a map and watch for other hiker's and well worn trails.
-terrain: 50% sand, 30% actual dirt trails, 20% boulders/rocks.
the few dirt trails are such a relief in between sandy beaches. These trails often aren't marked unfortunately, so they are easy to miss.
-bring a tide chart as there are two 4 miles stretches that are unpassable at high tide.
-there is ample water right now.(July 2017) multiple creeks /rivers besides what's shown on the map. expect a water source every 2 miles so you shouldn't have to carry too much.

I carried a 30pound pack, and am a semi experienced backpacker (have been on 5 trips to date) and found it a moderate hike. Lack of serious elevation changes made it seem easier. The giant rock/Boulder fields were most difficult just because it required full attention to every step (no one wants a rolled ankle!).

backpacking
9 months ago

Great hike with amazing views and wildlife... Loved the experience of being "trapped" along a creek by the tide with nobody else there except the folks you hiked in with!

Went in late June spending 3 nights, would have spent 4 with a short early out the next morning but couldn't find any good camping for larger groups (there were 8 of us) in the last 5 miles so we settled for pizza and beer in Shelter Cove.

What everyone says about the terrain is true, some parts are quite challenging but just stick to a comfortable pace and plan around the tides accordingly and you'll be fine. Our group ranged from 25 to 70 in varying physical conditions and we all emerged essentially unscathed.

Highly recommended!!

9 months ago

Words can't describe this stretch of California. In the future I may try to come back and give it my best shot but for now I'm just going to day dream about every day until the words come to me. Put this trail high up on your bucket list.

backpacking
9 months ago

This is a beautiful, gorgeous, full of eye candy hike, however, be forewarned- this is NOT an easy hike. There is very little hard surface, easy walking, hiking here- most of it is sand, some of it is boulders from bowling ball size to house size, all the boulder fields are difficult walking with hazardous potential if you fall or step incorrectly. It is real work to walk in sand with 50 pounds on your back. Lovely hike but don't say no one told you and forewarned you....

backpacking
10 months ago

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
10 months 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
10 months ago

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

backpacking
10 months ago

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.

backpacking
10 months ago

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

backpacking
10 months ago

Absolutely loved it!

10 months ago

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.

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