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Spotlight: King Range National Conservation Area

Spotlight: King Range National Conservation Area

Discover California’s Lost Coast: black-sand beaches, steep and rugged mountains, and incredibly scenic vistas!

Kings Range Fields of wildflowers, just one of the many reasons to pay King Range a visit. (Bob Wick/BLM)

What You’ll Find

The King Range National Conservation Area stretches along 35 miles of the northern California coastline about 60 miles south of Eureka and 230 miles north of San Francisco. Covering 68,000 acres along an abrupt wall of mountains rising 4,000 feet above the Pacific, the area is one of the most spectacular and remote stretches of coastline in the continental U.S. In 1970, Congress designated the King Range as a National Conservation Area (NCA) and in 2006 they passed the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act designating over 42,000 acres of wilderness within the NCA.

California’s Lost Coast draws people from all over the world. Where the Pacific Ocean meets wild, undeveloped coastline, old-growth forests and rugged peaks of the King Range, visitors pursue a wide variety of activities, including hiking and backpacking 80 miles of trails, camping, beach-combing, mountain biking, surfing, hunting, and vehicular touring and sight-seeing.

Getting There

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 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at 707-986-5400 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.

Check the BLM site for a map and specific driving directions from three access points.

Stay Here

There are six campsites in the King Range: Mattole, Honeydew Creek, Horse Mountain, Tolkan, Nadelos and Wailaki. Campsites are first-come, first-serve and open year-round for $8.00 per night. There is one group site available and reservations must be made 30-days in advance by calling the BLM at 707-986-5400. Facilities are kept to a minimum in order to preserve the area's rustic and semi-primitive qualities.

Make Sure You

Be aware of weather, tides and waves when visiting the coast. Conditions change rapidly, tides may obstruct trails and wave patterns can be unpredictable. Before you go make sure to check current weather and tide predictions for the area.

Don’t Forget

To maintain the lost feeling of the Lost Coast, use Leave No Trace practices during your visit. This means more than just picking up litter and extinguishing campfires. Leave No Trace is a way to maintain the integrity and character of the outdoors for all living things. A national outdoor skills and ethics education program, the Leave No Trace approach promotes land stewardship, minimum-impact skills and wilderness ethics.

Try This

The King Range contains over 80 miles of hiking trails spanning from the beach to the highest peaks. A number of connector trails allow for loops which make great day hikes. Many hikers of the Lost Coast Trail choose to park their vehicle at one trailhead and be shuttled via local transport providers either to or from the opposite trailhead. Know-before-you-go information is invaluable for those seeking hiking and backpacking adventures. The King Range has a 14-mile mountain bike loop trail and a proposed trail system will eventually include 30 miles of trails offering varying levels of difficulty and diverse scenic vistas, terrain features and riding experiences.

Did You Know?

The King Range NCA spans the northern California coastline between the mouth of the Mattole River and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Here the landscape was too rugged for highway building, forcing State Highway 1 and U.S. 101 inland.

Geologically, the King Range is severely folded and faulted with three of the large plates that make up the earth's crust grinding together just offshore. The King Range is at the edge of the North American Plate which is being forced upward from the two offshore plates. These mountains have risen 66 feet in the last 6,000 years. King Peak, the highest point at 4,088 feet, is only three miles from the ocean.

Curiously, although this is the wettest spot in California, hot dry summer winds make the King Range too dry to support the redwood forests that surround it on three sides.

Nearly 300 species of native and migratory birds have been spotted in the King Range making it a birders paradise. The old-growth forest is important habitat for the northern spotted owl, bald eagle and coopers hawk.