The King Range National Conservation Area is unlike any other place in the continental United States. Here, in this 35-mile long, 68,000-acre stretch of coastal wilderness, the mountains rise directly out of the sea. King Peak tops out at 4,088 ft., and is only 3 miles from the ocean. The Conservation Area extends between the Mattole River in Humboldt County to the northern border of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in Mendocino County.
Because of its remoteness and relative inaccessibility—only a few back roads lead into the range—this Douglas-fir-clad wilderness attracts hikers, backpackers, campers, equestrians, mushroom collectors, surfers, anglers, beachcombers and abalone divers. Seals, sea lions and a multitude of sea birds inhabit the rocky shoreline; tide pools and kelp beds are their homes. California gray whales pass close to shore during the spring northern migration. Streams that pour down from the mountains are spawning waters for salmon and trout. A small herd of Roosevelt elk roams the area, and some 300 species of migratory birds have been found in the King Range, including the northern spotted owl, bald eagle and Cooper’s hawk. Black bear and mountain lions also prowl these mountns and the shoreline. Campers are required to carry and use approved hard-sided bear canisters to store all food and scented items, or face being fined.
The BLM maintains miles of trails in the King Range National Conservation Area, most of which intersect the legendary Lost Coast Trail. The trail runs 25 miles along the shore at the base of the mountains from the mouth of the Mattole to Shelter Cove. There is a wide selection of automobile and backcountry campgrounds in and around the Conservation Area.
Accessing the King Range can be an adventure in itself. Hikers can take the Lost Coast Trail north out of the village of Shelter Cove. Unpaved back roads, most suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance, intersect Shelter Cove Road on the south, and Wilder Ridge Road on the east. On the north end of the range, access is near the mouth of the Mattole River on Lighthouse Road, off Mattole Road. Most of the Coastal Trail is well-marked, but it is recommended that any hikers who are not familiar with the trail bring a map of the area and a tide table along.
Where: To get to Shelter Cove, take the Hwy 101 exit to Redway/Garberville and follow the signs to Redway. In Redway, turn west on Briceland Rd. and go 14 miles to Shelter Cove Rd. Turn right on Shelter Cove Rd. and follow the signs to Black Sands Beach. (google map)
More Info: Maps and bear canisters are available at BLM’s King Range project office in Whitethorn, 707-986-5400, or in Arcata, 707-825-2300 | BLM.gov