Lost Coast Loop Trip Report:
Date: 10/29 – 11/1
Route: Starting at Mattole Beach and moving along coastline until Buck Creek. From Buck Creek, climbing up into the mountains following King's Crest Trail, road walk to Spanish Ridge trailhead and then following Cooskie Creek Trail back to the coast. Total Mileage ~ 60 miles.
I first learned about the Lost Coast Trail about a month ago when looking into coastal backpacking routes that I could do in the cold season. From all that I read it sounded like a great place to visit so I arranged some time off work and headed to the north coast.
There are a few things to consider when hiking this area. Bear canisters are required and probably for good reason. I saw many signs of bear and there are areas where good hanging trees are hard to find. A tide table is necessary for certain stretches along the coastline. During high tide there are impassible sections which are marked on the map available from the King Range Office in Whitethorn. I found that there are some sections where even 2 hours before and after high tide they are still difficult to get around requiring some scrambling over rocks along the cliffs. Weather is also a necessary consideration, the winds can be quite stiff and storms can bring in higher than normal tides. If planning on taking the mountain route, water is scarce and there are only a few places where it is reliably available late in the season.
I started out on Mattole Beach at about 3 pm after an uneventful 7 hour drive. The first few miles passed quickly and I soon found myself at the Punta Gorda lighthouse. It was much smaller in person but still very cool to be able to climb up inside and think about the poor men who used to be stationed here for long periods alone.
Still feeling restless I headed another mile and camped for the night at Sea Lion Gulch. I slept out under the stars listening to the rather unpleasant sounds of sea lions.
My campsite in the morning
The next day I hiked along the coastline to Big Flat/Miller Flat where I found nice camping places. There were quite a few surfers also camped out here and it was nice to watch them surfing as the sunset.
I slept well but woke with a lot of condensation in my bivy and the air heavy with morning fog. The hike over to Buck Creek trail was lovely and I took a nice lunch break there to air out my gear and get ready for the climb into the mountains.
I tanked up on water as I planned on a dry camp that night and hiked up Buck Creek Trail until it ran into the King's Crest Trail. I followed this up to the top of Kings Peak.
Up Buck Creek Trail
Amazing vistas from the top of Kings Peak as well as quite strong winds. I measured a steady blow of 30mph with gusts up to 40. I found a little platform had been built on top and set up camp under it out of the wind somewhat. Not the best campsite and I paid for it with very poor sleep but I was rewarded with an incredible sunset and sunrise.
Home for the night
After snapping off a few photos the next morning I quickly packed up and headed down to Maple Camp to replenish my water. I wasnt planning on going to Miller camp for water so I had to carry enough to get me to Cooskie Creek about 18 miles away. I later learned that the spring between Kinsey Ridge trailhead and Spanish Ridge trailhead was flowing.
The day took me through mixed forest, sometimes quite dark and rolling grassland. Overall a remarkable day and the most enjoyable hiking of the trip. After finishing the King's Crest trail and walking a few miles along the dirt rode I hiked the Cooskie Creek trail down to Cooskie Creek. The trail is very well signed and downhill for the most part. The views were wonderful and I had a thoroughly enjoyable hike. I was on such a roll that after reaching Cooskie Creek and seeing a couple of primo campsites, I decided to hike a few more miles down to the coast via the Cooskie Creek Spur trail. I made it to a creek and set up camp on the cliff overlooking the ocean.
The wind had picked up again and I was not looking forward to another fitful night of sleep. I set up my tarp behind a large rock face out of the main force of the wind. Due either to my poor tarping skills or the very strong gusts I was forced to take down my tarp in the middle of the night as it was flapping so loudly I could not sleep well. I managed to sleep soundly after that and woke refreshed.
I followed the coastline back north for the remaining 5 miles and finished at around 10 am feeling very happy and contented. This was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone interested in seeing some diverse landscapes and getting away from the more popular parks. I was also blessed with almost perfect weather and this really helped make the trip enjoyable.