Lost Coast Trail: Mattole to Black Sands Beach

MODERATE 143 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
1,578 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

dog friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

beach

forest

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

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
7 days ago

This trail is amazing the sand will definitely take its toll on the legs. I recommend checking the tides before even getting your permit. The second impassable is slippery even at .2 to 1 foot there are parts will you will be walking on like tide pools.

There are plenty of places for water
Cooskie Creek is definitely campable and had amazing views

backpacking
7 days ago

Truly incredible backpacking trip made more exciting by the challenge of managing schedules around the tides which make the trail impassable for stretches at a time. All different kinds of undeveloped coast for your enjoyment and it really did feel “lost”. Most days we saw only 4-6 people and no one else slept at the same campsites as us. It is busier in summer, we went at end of September when they limit permits per day to 30 instead of 60 and which is close to the rainy season so we got sprinkled on a bit the last day. I would do it again in a heart beat!

I strongly disagree with people who say the hike is the hardest hike they’ve ever been on - I would argue they likely have little to no experience backpacking in The West. I wasn’t even sore when we finished the trail. As someone who has summitted many 14ers including Whitney and also backpacked most of Yosemite, this was more mental challenge and less physical than the others I mentioned. Only about 5 miles of this trail is a typical trail. The rest is packed sand, fluffy sand, pebbles, boulders, or some kind of lava rock. Trekking poles are a must if you are prone to rolling your ankle (or just want to move quickly without fear of losing balance on boulder fields). You will need to think about where you are going before you take each step most of the way.

I think anyone in moderate or better shape can handle this trip but give yourself an extra day or two so you aren’t in a time crunch and tempted to take risks with the tide. The trail is truly impassable in 2 stretches and there is no where to wait it out if you are between campsites - you will be swept out to sea and die. So... be smart and err on the safe side. Rule of thumb is be out of impassable zones 2 hrs before high tide and wait until 2 hours after as there are sneaker tides that shoot up occasionally as the tide goes out. We would get up at 6am, hike until 2 hours before high tide and set up our tent at a campsite for a nap, cook a hot meal and pump water for that four hour window and then hike until dark once it was safe to continue.

The first 4 miles and last 4 miles are the toughest because it is soft sand that your feet sinks into so it takes a lot of effort, esp with an extra 35 lbs of backpack. I had no sleep the night before as I drove up from SF after midnight and was ready to turn around a mile or so into Mattole Beach but I am glad I did not. The worst of it’s the very beginning or the very end.

If you’re thinking about doing it, you should. Note permits can be a challenge so apply sooner than later!

backpacking
23 days ago

I did this last week. It is the hardest hike I have ever been on.

backpacking
1 month ago

This is a beautiful trail, and probably that's an understatement.
For starters, this was my first ever backpacking trip. So, first ever backpacking trip for a person who's 5feet (petite) and who hits the gym 10times a month on average. Whatever i read on this site and several other blogs definitely made me feel scared that I might not complete this and I'm doing something dumb. All i want to say is, this is not an impossible trail, being in shape and being fit helps, doing other backpacking trips before this might help too. But this can very much be your first backpacking trip as well. But again, if you're one of those who might get tired or might face severe body aches walking 5miles on flat/concrete land - then you might not want to consider doing this one. (I do want to add that I was on ibuprofen all three nights while hiking to reduce some body pains)

We started off at Mattole on Wednesday evening around 5PM and walked till about 8PM and camped around the lighthouse. We were not in the more crowded campground areas, we just managed to find a spot where it was just us and that did feel good.
Thursday - we started from the lighthouse and began walking around the first impassable spot, we took a lot of breaks, enjoyed the views, and hiked till Randall Creek and camped there. Again, we managed to find a not-at-all crowded spot which worked good.
Friday - we started from Randall Creek and started walking the flat lands, again we took a lot of breaks, enjoyed the wind, the sun, the views and by the end of the day we came a bit farther than the major campground and again camped in a secluded spot (this one is just before the next impassable section)
Saturday - we were determined to complete this trail and head back to black sands. we started a little early around 9AM (earlier days was around 11AM) and did not make major stops on the impassable section. We did one major stop at Buck Creek for breakfast and began hiking again. Honestly, the toughest part of the hike is the last 2miles. We successfully finished and reach black sands beach at about 5PM.

Our original plan was Wednesday to Sunday, but we managed to get done by Saturday!

Couple of things:
Take your time, don't be in a rush just to finish the trail for the sake of finishing it. The view, the sun and the wind is pure and gorgeous. I'm very glad we took hour long breaks in so many spots and just enjoyed sitting out there in wilderness doing absolutely nothing.

Rocks maybe your new best friend. I understand a lot of reviews or blogs mentioned the last 5-6miles is beach sand and it is difficult. Heck yeah, it is difficult. For most of the part, i found my way around trying to walk on loose small rocks. For me, every time i saw that i could walk on the rocks, i was pretty glad. This may not work for everyone, keep in mind it is very very easy to sprain your ankle or get your ankle bent while walking on rocks (big or small, both of them exist in this trail)

Tidal timing is everything. I mean it, if you do not feel safe at any of the impassable sections to get through, just stay back. We did that. Honestly, we just memorized the general tidal timings from a high-level perspective. For us it was just being smart about the tides. If you have a general idea about tidal timings and did some good research before, you should be good. Again, carrying a tidal map is an absolute necessity. We did that, but we hardly opened it.

Pack light - if this your first backpacking trip, do pack light. We over analyzed our intake of food and toiletries and packed a little extra than needed. A bit more planning or idea might have helped us on that front. I would definitely suggest you to review your previous hikes you've done and see how your body consistently reacts to hiking. For example: I know if i'm on a long hike, by the end of it I lose most of my appetite and just require more water. But again, i forced myself to eat as much as possible to hike this one.

Stay hydrated, the first 3-5miles may not have any creeks, but there are abundant creeks through out the rest of the trail. So water should never be a problem, except bring a purifier for sure.

Snakes: We did spot a couple of snakes, they were not rattle snakes. Not sure what they were, but we did spot one at Buck Creek while filling water and one around the land where we camped for the 3rd night. Be careful and check your entire surroundings before you camp somewhere.

Enjoy the hike, it's beautiful and has some amazing view of the world's biggest ocean's coastline. Anything said to describe the trails beauty is not sufficient. It is something to just experience and soak it in.

It is a long hike for sure, there were a couple of times in different days where i was tired and waiting to see if there's flat land anywhere at all. It can take a toll on you if you're not mentally up for it. For me, as much as a hike requires physical strength, it requires mental strength too.

backpacking
1 month ago

A few important things that need to be stated:
People using this trail are extremely problematic. Do I have your attention? I’m talking to you. There was trash in damn near every campsite we walked by. Half burned food packs in fire pits, cans, toilet paper and baby wipes every-damn-where, and on far too many occasions, piles of shit with a rock placed over them.

If you do not know what backpacking etiquette is, educate yourself first, OR DO NOT GO.

1. PACK OUT YOUR TRASH. All of it. Do not burn it like an idiot. We all know plastic and foil packaging should not be burned.
2. BURRY your feces and toilet paper (if you don’t pack the TP out; do not burry wipes, they must be packed out) 6-8 inches deep.
3. DO NOT HARASS THE WILDLIFE. This includes getting too close for photos as well as polluting their home with your trash.
4. LEAVE NO TRACE.

This is one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done, and to see the remnants of peak season use litter the pristine gem is beyond disappointing.

1 month ago

i was always in a hurry to see what was around the next corner. next time got to slow down and appreciate it. our August hike had perfect weather and tides. it is a great hike, not nearly as difficult as anticipated. plentiful water, no need to carry more than a liter at a time.

1 month ago

Left Mattole Sunday morning and made it to Black Sands on Tuesday a little before noon. One of the best backpacking trips I’ve been on. We had one clear day and then a couple foggy days. Make sure you check the tides and truly obey the schedule. There were a few times that we were a couple hours on either side of high tide and we had some waves come up to our waist, this was ok but I can see how some might have gotten washed away if it was any later or earlier. It was definitely not easy and if this is your first backpacking trip I’d recommend doing another trip first before trying this one out. However it is doable if you are in good shape. Lots of walking on sand and loose rocks. Everyone we met on the trail was very nice and our group now has many memories to take home with us. I definitely recommend this trip and would do it again (but for now it’s ice and Advil for the legs).

backpacking
1 month ago

Incredible! A genuine California experience. Some tips that I learned: hike the trail close to a new moon (the lowest tides will be during the day) and pay attention to vague signs leading you over hat rock. It was a wonderful trip though.

backpacking
1 month ago

Amazing backpacking trail. beautiful views and campsites along creeks; we got a swim in each night. The low number of permits keep this lightly trafficked and we ran into few people. You do need to plan around the tides and walking on sand and rocks for most of the trail is hard on your feet, so bring tape for blisters. We did the trail in July and had great weather.

backpacking
2 months ago

Amazing trail. This was my first coastal hiking, and as the other reviewers said here, it is important to download a tide chart and understand how to read it as there are two 4-mile stretches of impassible zones.

I found low tide easier to hike because the sand was more packed, and I could avoid more of the cobblestone type rocks. The northern impassible zone would likely be truly impassible in my experience (I travelled at full moon and very light surf and winds) - I hit that part at receding tide and even then some areas were iffy.

The impassible zone south of Miller flat may be doable in high tide with calm conditions, but I wouldn’t risk it.

The views, solitude and wildlife make this trail one of my all time favorites. I bought a map, rented a bear canister and got a free tide chart from the lost coast adventures shuttle.

Please note that there is no cell service in Settlers Cove and anywhere along the coast - so plan in advance.

backpacking
2 months ago

Cons:
- 5+ hour drive to Bay Area
- $80 shuttle ride not including tip
- Walking long stretches on wet, unstable rocks
- Lots of poison ivy
- Had to climb portions of rock that are very dangerous where tide came in too high
- Walking at an angle in sand that is not packed down at all, caused foot injury for me
- Lot of people backpacking the trail
- Tides coming in and out very stressful, reaching and finishing impassable zones challenging
- Zero marking on trail
- Bear footprints on beach
- Very difficult to be rescued in this area and is dangerous enough to be a concern
- no cell service
Pros:
- Beautiful scenery
- Some private campsites

My boyfriend and I are avid backpackers and completed this trail in 2 nights/3 days in mid July.
I did not enjoy it and found myself looking down for a lot of the trail trying to stay balanced on the rocks. I personally do not find walking on rocks to be enjoyable when backpacking. My boyfriend liked the trail because of the challenge. For me, it was too difficult to enjoy. I thought this trail would be mostly walking on sand and did not factor in the rock aspect or stress with the impassable tide zones. There were a lot of people hiking the trail and I was hoping to be a little more isolated than that. There was one very sketchy portion of the trail we encountered on the first day where the water on the beach was too high so we had to climb up and over a portion of rocks that was very dangerous with some other people who took the same shuttle as us. (note: this was not at high tide) The one upside was that the scenery was beautiful. However, I advise really knowing what you are getting into, this is not an easy or moderate trail by any means.

backpacking
2 months ago

A beautiful trip! If you’re decently in shape and have good balance, you can do this trip in 2 full days, but it’s nice to have some extra time to soak in the beauty.

Definitely wear waterproof hiking boots so you don’t roll your ankle (you probably will anyways. There is barely any elevation gain, but you will be walking on the slanted beach, which feels odd after many miles of repetitive strain. Bring layers!

You need a permit and a bear canister. We saw bear prints in the sand. There aren’t many trees hang your food from.

The impassible zones are indeed impassible at high tide! Make sure you check the tide chart, or get ready to be very wet. We went about an hour after a moderately high high tide and were chased by many waves. It was very fun, but know what you’re getting into.

2 months ago

A lot less strenuous than I thought. Nice three day trip!

hiking
4 months ago

A rare gem where it is possible to backpack along the Pacific Coast without any sign of civilization. To reiterate what others have said you want to understand the tide and protect your food from bears. Its a lot of loose rocks more than packed sand, so the miles here will take a lot more out of you than they would in other places. Sneakers might actually be a better choice than hiking boots for this trail.

backpacking
4 months ago

We 3 did the north section from June 1st to June 3rd.
The weather was amazine, the forecast said it has somewhere 15 mph gust and regular 10 wind, but I don't really feel it. Temperature around 70-80 during the day and around 50 at night.

We camped at Shelter Cove RV and Campground on 31st, it is a much more expensive campground($46 for 3 people), but it has shower, and flush toilet, and most importantly, it is very close and reservable to the Black Sand Beach Trailhead, where we take our shuttle.

We took Lost Coast Adventure shuttle to Mattole Beach Trailhead. The service was nice and price reasonable. The only improvement which I would say is maybe ability to adjust the shuttle according to tide time, will be better.

Speaking of the tide, I originally was not quite sure about how high a tide is safe for hiking. I was planning for 2.5ft as the safe zone for us to hike, which only allow us to hike early morning to noon. But during our hike we assessed the actual situation, we actually hiked in 3-4 ft(forecast tide level, not actual) period and we did it. There was only one or two points which I felt a bit sketchy between Miller Flat to Shipman Creek during 3-4 ft tide zone. But we managed to get through, giving the beautiful weather and mercy of little-wind.

My original plan was first day 4.5 miles to Seal Lion Gulch, second day 12 miles to Miller Flat, third day end the hike with 8.5 miles. But after words I felt we totally didn't follow the plan.

We 3 are all relatively fast hikers, we started at 9:30am, reached Sea Lion Gulch around 11:45ish, one of our guy's boots had failed him having the front half of the out soles falling from the boots. He managed to fixed it with duct tape and we kept going. We arrived at Cooskie Creek about some time past 1pm.

We took lunch, nap on the beach, it was beautiful. And we started again at 5:45pm, this time we reached Spanish Flat. The hike of the later afternoon was much harder than the morning, the terrain was mostly soccer sized pebbles and the tide was higher than the morning. We need to be really careful about the footing and watch the tide. We arrived at Spanish Flat about 7:30. Started a fire, had dinner, and I played with my camera, finally after so many backpacking trip carrying it without utilizing it, shot the starry sky.

Second day we started late around a quarter to 10 am, same pattern, this time we took our break at Miller flat around 2. There was nice swimming holes at both Big Creek and Miller Flat, we took a dip at Miller Flat.

We picked up from Miller flat at about 5:15pm. Here after Miller Flat we came across the sketchy point about less than a mile towards Shipman Creek. Once we arrived at Shipman Creek, the poor guy's outsoles was found completely peeled off the bottom of the boots. Again, this genius hiker fixed it again with ropes, multitool, and small pebbles! Such creativity!!! We finally camped at Gitchell Creek at 7:30pm, enjoyed incredible sunset, warm campfire and amazing starry night sky again.

Last day was easy, only 3.6 miles, but all on sandy beach, walking was not as easy as on solid ground. We finished the hike at 12pm.

4 months ago

This was a life changing backpacking trail. Couple of recommendations: (1) Download the tide chart and plan around the impassable areas https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/noaatidepredictions.html?id=9418024 (2) Treat your clothing for ticks with permethrin - ticks are particularly bad in Humboldt county according to local hospitals. Enjoy your time - the wildflowers are beautiful, look for starfish and other wildlife!

hiking
4 months ago

Description
This is a magical trail that has absolutely the most beautiful views of the coastline while providing an isolated completely plugged out experience. You don't have to go all the way one way. Couple of options: 1. Go all the way and arrange for a ride to drop off at parking location
2. Start at the north point and do as far as you want. Camp and do day hikes through the trail to get a good look at the middle section
3. Start on the south end and do the same as # 2
Either way you will get plenty of site seeing and some wildlife if you're lucky. We got to see a herd of Elk passing by. They were playing at the beach - I have never seen animals having fun at the beach like these elks.

There are many wet parts of the trail, you are inevitably going to get we, so bring waterproof shoes and clothes that will dry easy. If you catch warm weather, the beach was a lot of fun to hang around and explore.

backpacking
4 months ago

This was my first backpacking trip and it was absolutely amazing! Just incredibly beautiful. If you love the beach, you get it. Did it comfortably in three days (Start 5/19 @ 10am - End 5/21 @ 3pm). 2 days is tough but doable. Bring tide charts because there are impassable sections. Would recommend buying the BLM map. Campsites are easily found and common at wide mouthed rivers even in the impassable sections! Plenty of water sources. There’s relative solitude during Spring/Summer. Permit is required! Would recommend going North to South, taking a shuttle Mattole and leaving your car at the Black Sands. Terrain is pretty roughy, either big rocks or sand so be prepared! Absolutely amazing trip!

backpacking
6 months 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
8 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/

8 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
11 months ago

best california beach experience out there. bring extra socks!

backpacking
11 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
Sunday, October 15, 2017

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

backpacking
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

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
Friday, August 11, 2017

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
Friday, August 04, 2017

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
Monday, July 31, 2017

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.

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