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.
Leave No Trace
Here are some tips to help you "Leave No Trace:"
Properly Dispose of What you Can't Pack Out
On Lost Coast Trail: Bury all human waste in the sand below the high tide line. All other trails: Bury human waste 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet (approximately 70 paces) from streams when you are not near the ocean.
Use toilet paper or wipes sparingly. Pack them out in plastic bags.
To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes, and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter dish water after removing all food particles.
Inspect your campsite for trash and evidence of your stay. Pack out all trash: yours and others'
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
Visit the backcountry in small groups.
Avoid popular areas during times of high use.
Choose equipment and clothing in subdued colors.
Repackage food into reusable containers.
Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
On the Trail:
Stay on designated trails. Walk single file in the middle of the path.
Do not shortcut switchbacks.
When traveling cross-country, choose the most durable surfaces available: rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
Use a map and compass to eliminate the need for rock cairns, tree scars and ribbons.
Choose an established, legal site that will not be damaged by your stay.
Restrict activities to the area where vegetation is compacted or absent.
Keep pollutants out of water sources by camping at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from lakes and streams.
Pack it In, Pack it Out
Pack everything that you bring into wild country back out with you.
Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations securely.
Pick up all spilled foods.
Leave What You Find
Treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rock, and historical artifacts as you find them.
Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site should not be necessary.
Let nature's sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
Control pets at all times. Remove dog feces from trails or camping areas.
Do not build structures or furniture or dig trenches.
Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Always carry a lightweight stove for cooking. Enjoy a candle lantern instead of a fire.
Where fires are permitted , use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires. Do not scar large rocks or overhangs.
Gather sticks, no larger than an adult's wrist from the ground.
Do not snap branches off live, dead or downed trees.
Put out campfires completely.
Do not burn trash; pack it out.
For more information on the "Leave No Trace" program and Leave No Trace teaching activities, visit the Web site of the Leave No Trace organization, sponsored in part by the Bureau of Land Management.
ENJOY AMERICA'S WILD COUNTRY AND
"LEAVE NO TRACE"
The King Range National Conservation Area is located about 230 miles north of San Francisco and 60 miles south of Eureka.
All roads leading to the King Range are narrow, steep and winding. Allow PLENTY of time between destinations, have a full tank of gas, and be alert to oncoming traffic.
All main roads are normally accessible to passenger cars except during heavy winter storms. Primitive roads may be closed seasonally. Call the BLM for current road conditions.
Brown directional signs mark all major intersections in the King Range giving the road name and distances to primary recreation sites.
NORTH ACCESS: U.S. 101 to the Ferndale exit. Once in Ferndale, follow signs to Petrolia. One mile past Petrolia, turn right on Lighthouse Road; it is 5 more miles to the Mattole Recreation Site. Allow 1 1/2 hours for the 42 mile trip.
CENTRAL ACCESS: U.S. 101 to South Fork - Honeydew exit. Follow the signs to Honeydew (23 Miles). Turn left in Honeydew to Honeydew Creek Recreation Site and Smith-Etter Road. Allow 1 hour for the 24 mile trip.
SOUTH ACCESS: U.S. 101 to the Redway/Garberville exit. Follow signs to Shelter Cove/King Range NCA. Allow 45 minutes for the 22 mile trip to Shelter Cove.
TRAVEL TIMES BETWEEN SELECTED DESTINATIONS
Black Sands Beach to Mattole Recreation Site, 2 hours, 30 minutes
A.W. Way Park, 8 miles, 20 minutes
Mattole Recreation Site, 18.5 miles, 45 minutes
Shelter Cove Rd./Chemise Mountain Rd. Intersection to:
Hidden Valley Trailhead, 1/4 mile, 1 minute
Wailaki/Nadelos Campgrounds, 1/2 mile, 5 minutes
Sinkyone State Park (Needle Rock), 10 miles, 45 minutes
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act - Public law 109-362 (10/17/2006) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forests and certain Bureau of Land Management lands in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa Counties in the State of California as wilderness, to designate the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area, to designate certain segments of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County, California as a wild or scenic river, and for other purposes.
BEAR ALERT! There is a serious bear problem along the entire beach. Bears are coming into camp and taking food. This is a dangerous situation for people and bears alike. BEAR RESISTANT CANISTERS ARE REQUIRED as hanging food is not an effective method on the coast.
The King Range contains over 80 miles of hiking trails spanning from the beach to the highest peaks. Most of the upland trails are strenuous due to the steep rugged nature of the area. In addition to mileage, pay attention to the elevation changes listed in the trail descriptions. A number of connector trails allow for loop hikes. The King Range backcountry was designated as official wilderness on October 17, 2006 and the BLM manages it accordingly, so expect no facilities and minimal signing on trails. Some of the lesser used trails (such as Rattlesnake Ridge, Spanish Ridge and Cooskie Creek) may be somewhat overgrown and difficult to follow. It's best to carry a map and compass with you, and call the BLM office before your trip to get the latest trail conditions.
Dogs are allowed in the King Range. Owners are advised that the trails are difficult on dogs. Your canine should be above in average physical condition and special attention should be given to your dog's paws, as the rocky trails can cause cuts and/or swelling in paw tissues on even the most fit animals. Some hikers provide their dogs with 'booties' to protect against paw damage. Dogs should be on a leash no longer than 6' in a developed campground. Outside of developed campgrounds they do not need to be on a leash, but should be under voice control at all times.
BLM Special Recreation Use Permits are required for all commercial outfitters, universities, and other organized groups accessing the King Range.For information on obtaining a special recreation use permit, please contact the King Range Office at (707) 986-5400.
Individuals, families, or 'non-organized' groups also require overnight use permits. Visitors can book their permit reservations on online. Permits are not required for day-use or in designated campgrounds. Permits for the upcoming season are generally available beginning October 1, and the max permit size is 5 people. The max group size is 15, so a max group of 15 people would need to reserve 3 permits.
During high fire danger the use of fires may be suspended (camp stoves are still authorized). Please check with the local BLM office prior to leaving for current campfire restrictions.
If you build a fire, use existing fire rings and burn only dead/down wood or driftwood. Put your fires out with water before you leave your campsite or go to sleep. DO NOT bury with sand!
Practice Leave No Trace principles; such as, bury all human waste in the sand below the high tide line or 6-8" deep and at least 200 feet (approx. 70 paces) from streams when you are not near the ocean. Pack out trash, do not bury.
Respect landowners' privacy; ask permission to cross private property.
Respect wildlife. If animals notice your presence, you're too close.
From October to April, the King Range wrings moisture from Pacific storms, making it one of the wettest spots in the U.S. Local weather stations typically average 100+ inches annually of rainfall, and during wet years, 200+ inches can fall along the Lost Coast. Snow can blanket the higher peaks after storms, but typically doesn't last for long. The coast rarely sees frost or snow. Sunny weather hikes are still possible in winter during breaks between storms. Scattered showers can linger into early June.
From May - September, the King Crest is normally warm and dry with temperatures reaching the 80's - 90's in mid-summer. At the base of the peaks, the King Range coastline sees less of the cool fog that characterizes much of northern California's Coast, but coastal weather is still highly variable -- one day may bring fog, drizzle and 60 degrees, while the next is a dry 85 degrees. Prepare for rapid weather changes by bringing plenty of clothing layers. Always carry rain gear on extended hikes. Summer winds along the King Crest and Lost Coast Trails are often very strong and erratic. Plan to choose a sheltered camping spot and secure your tent.
Check the weather forecast at:
Tides are created by the known and predictable gravitational pull of the sun and moon in their relationship to the earth. Tides are also affected by unpredictable forces of nature (winds, storms, river runs, atmospheric pressure changes). An understanding of the forces causing ocean tides is complex.
Generally, there will be 2 high tides and 2 low tides every 24 hours occuring approximately 50 minutes later each day. During periods of full moon or new moon high tides are usually higher than normal and low tides are usually lower than normal. During periods of the first quarter and last quarter the high tides and the low tides are usually less than normal.
** DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK TO THE OCEAN; BE WATCHFUL AT ALL TIMES **
The ocean along the north coast of California is very unpredictable. Visitors should never attempt to swim or enter the water along this stretch of coastline. The water is very cold and survival is limited to 20 minutes without a wetsuit. The Northern California coastline has very strong undertow and rip currents. Always stay aware of ocean conditions while hiking along the Lost Coast beaches. Larger than normal sets of waves, also known as "sneaker" or "rogue" waves, with high energy can race far up the beach without warning. Unsuspecting hikers can be washed out to sea in an instant from these occurrences.
Safety and Current Conditions
Poison Oak and ticks WILL, and rattlesnakes may, be encountered along the trails. Ticks carry debilitating Lyme disease. Check your selves and clothing frequently for ticks while hiking in brushy and/or grassy terrain, particularly near the coast.
Be prepared to get yourself out of any situation you put yourself into. Emergency response time in the King Range may be hours at best. Avoid rescue situations through preperations and prevention. Proper clothing, enough food, and a first aid kit are as essential as knowing your group's limitations. When prevention fails, self-rescue may be your next step. Do not rely on cell phone coverage.
Water is available year round from coastal streams, but should always be purified before drinking. Water sources are scarce on upland trails such as the King Crest. Carry plenty of water on these trails.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.