Lost Coast Backpack Trip
June 24-26, 2018
My 6-year-old son and I along with my friend Debra (Mtnmnslady) did an awesome trip on
the Lost Coast a week and a half ago. I did not want to hike the whole Lost Coast "Trail",
as that requires a lot of stamina and timing of the tides and that would be too much for
my son (and me carrying the bulk of the gear!) But we still hiked in about 4 miles and
found a beautiful campsite that we had completely to ourselves for two nights. And saw
so many beautiful things that I know this is a trip we will never forget.
I am so happy and thankful Debra decided to join us for this trip. It was a long drive
for her from Ventura! But she made it and has been one of my best hiking partners over
the years. Let's see... 14 years we've been doing trips together? Since before I met my
We hiked in from the southern Shelter Cove trailhead, and the first four miles north
technically doesn't require tide timing until after the Gitchell Creek Camp. But we found
out that even in summer during a non-storm time, tides can be high and swells can make
them higher and you do have to be careful as the beach can quickly disappear. This is by
no means a gentle beach - swimming is a no-no as the waves and rip tides are fierce. Even
just hiking close to the waves you want to be alert as sneaker waves can appear. And if
there's not much beach and you have to hike close to cliffs there are dangers there as
well. We saw a slide occurring to the north of our camp on day 2! There really is no
trail for about 2/3 of the route - you just find your way over sand and rocks and find
your way around driftwood and other obstacles. And since the surface is uneven and
soft for much of the route, the 4 miles we hiked felt much further. The going was very
slow and rough, but the rewards are many.
When we started hiking on Sunday a bunch of backpackers were coming out. No one
was hiking our way and no one camped at our site, so it was a very pleasant wilderness
experience. The air was cool and there was a little bit of fog on Sunday so hiking in
was fairly easy. The tide was low and the waves were fairly calm and we found lots of
interesting critters like starfish and anenome and what I think was a nudibranch. We
passed one campsite at Horse Creek about 2 miles in and ate lunch at the turn-off for
the Horse Creek Trail. We then hiked another 2 miles or so to Gitchell Creek and set
up camp where others had before. There are limited options - basically you choose a
site that looks like it's been occupied before as far above the driftwood you can get
without hitting a cliff! That afternoon we watched a whale feed up and down the
shoreline, pelicans and gulls flying on the breeze, and explored the creek area for
The next day dawned cold and foggy and the sunrise in our little creek canyon was
spectacular! The way the sun rays burst through the fog and trees was amazing and
something I will never forget! This was a layover day and we had no big plans. We did
dayhike a bit further north during a receding tide. There were rock slide areas that
made me nervous, though, so we decided to not traverse past those. Maybe it was an
omen because later on that afternoon we witnessed a rock slide! This place isn't just a
walk in the park, no doubt.
In the afternoon we just relaxed in what shade we could find for the day, for the fog
burned completely off and it was a warm day. T had an absolute blast playing in the
creek. I packed in a squirt gun, a pail and a shovel for him and was thankful that he
was pretty much self-entertained all day.
That evening we saw a deer and also watched the whale again feed up and down that
stretch of coast. We also loved watching birds dive for food. We also had a grand ol'
time as we made up a game called "Guess the names of the people pictured on the
Mountain House Dinner package". We took turns coming up with outrageously funny
names and finally settled on "Mr. and Mrs. and Junior Bufferschnitzel" I don't think
I've ever laughed so hard with my son lol
I loved watching the sun set and the almost full moon rise. The swells got really large
that night and I watched nervously as they crashed over the last sand berm before our
campsite. Fortunately they would crash over but not travel further so we were safe for
Day 3 we packed up and hiked out. This was also a warm sunny day so we took our time.
Plus the tide was higher than it was when we hiked in, so we had to hike further up in the
rocks and driftwood. We ate lunch at Horse Creek on the way out and met another deer
:) The last half mile seemed especially slow as we were very tired from hiking on loose
sand and rock! I will never again take for granted solid hiking trail surfaces!
I highly recommend this trip, but be sure to plan carefully. There are many hazards -
just hiking to the trailhead you must pass 10 signs telling you them all! Also should
mention that it takes a long time to get to either trailhead, even us who started in
Northern California it took the better part of a day. Also, bear canisters and
wilderness permit reservations are required. But the scenery and solitude are worth it!
Hope you enjoy the pics!