Words by: L. Renee Blount
Photos by: L.Renee Blount
Three hours north of San Francisco, you’ll find a section of pristine coastline with deep ancestral roots. Its tectonic geology has kept it tucked away without congestion nor huge homes dotting the skyline. The Lost Coast sits on the San Andreas Fault nestled alongside the King Range mountains. A land deemed “Lost” continues to stay remote with limited roads and access points. Perhaps, its remoteness is its protector.
Why “Lost“? The term has multiple meanings. Perhaps, lost by its original inhabitants, the Native Sinkyoke and Mattole tribes that were displaced by the timber industry when logging intensified after nearby San Francisco was decimated in the 1906 Earthquake. Perhaps, lost because the trails are so thick with fog twice each day, you cannot see the path ahead. You can only hear the roaring waters while hiking on the adjacent cliffs. Perhaps, lost because it’s of the most pristine coastlines that was not able to be developed. And lastly, lost to describe its travellers — those looking to be lost due to a desire to have an intimate connection with nature as many seek solitude, a healthy break from technology or backcountry therapy for the soul.
Unlike Big Sur, there are no nearby resorts, 4 star hotels, and few cars. What makes Big Sur wonderful is its accessibility. Nearly anyone with a vehicle can make the trek on Highway 1, making it a lovely jaunt for day-trippers— folks of varying ability levels can take in the sounds and scenery by car. In contrast, it’s the Lost Coast’s inaccessibility, it’s deserted beaches that make it special. The Lost Coast’s geology made it too rugged to build Highway 1, which instead goes 20 miles inland. The shore is roadless and requires using former logging roads to access its entry points. Its thick trails, dirt roads, are for those seeking immersion, those looking to be temporarily lost.
I had heard of the Lost Coast Trail. It has a lore around it for serious hikers due to its remoteness. No one just day-trips there. You have to want to be there. To any adventurer, it’s name inspires intrigue. We started our hike at the southern leg. To get to the trailhead, required expertly maneuvering a Prius down a winding dirt road for an hour through thick fog amongst beautiful redwoods as if it were a SUV.
It was an all women crew. Our 40lb packs were stuffed for the journey of the southern portion. After the first stint through a forest, the trail opens to the seaside cliffs. The fog was so thick, we could hear the ocean but not see it. With so few people on the trail to maintain it, it’s dense with brush. The grasses stood taller than me making it easy to lose sight of the crew.
As we hiked through the coastline, the trail would then take us back inland through jagged forests of ferns, firs, and coastal redwoods only to let us out into pristine deserted beaches and grasslands dotted with elk. We rarely saw other hikers. At night, we beach camped at established sites near freshwater streams. On day break, we each took moments to have a cup of tea in solitude as waves crashed in. These moments were bittersweet– I was deeply moved by gratitude to see such pristine coastline that few have seen while feeling sadness for ancestral lands lost.
For many of us, it’s easy to be a weekend warrior. It’s easy to get lost in work and the daily hustle. In those moments of contemplations, the term lost felt appropriate for the travellers, not the land. Every Lost Coast mile was breathtaking — the wildflowers, untouched groves, and coastal cliffs filled with fog. We often stopped because the landscape was that compelling. This trail is not for the faint of heart. But for those who try, it will make your soul smile. The only question I ask for those who also hike this coastline, is what did your soul rediscover?
Last year our team travelled to the Lost Coast as part of our Spring 20 Women’s Hike Lookbook. Click here to see more and shop our Hike essentials.