Discovering California’s Lost Coast

King Range National Conservation Area, California
King Range National Conservation Area, California | © Bureau of Land Management / Flickr
Between highways of bustling cities and populated towns lies a desolate mecca of untouched land. This is California’s Lost Coast—the minuscule natural oasis tucked away within Humboldt County. The Lost Coast—an undisturbed stretch amid Ferndale and Rockport—is something of a Californian fable. Though it seems inconceivable to find a region so remote and free of any development, the Lost Coast actually exists for its natural constitution.

This stretch of steep mountains along the coastline made it too costly for highway construction. In the early 1900s, seasonal rains would continually wash away the roads in the region, resulting in a population exodus by the 1930s. Since then, the Lost Coast has preserved its natural state and become a legendary site within Northern California

King Range National Conservation Area, California © Bureau of Land Management / Flickr

The Lost Coast, though treacherous to find, is in no way lost—in fact, it attracts up to 24,000 visitors annually, who travel through a rollercoaster of oases to get here. Because of the land’s inaccessibility, there is a distinct original mark rather than a human one, making it a natural wonder within California. In order to preserve the Lost Coast as an undisturbed oasis, the land has become a part of King Range National Conservation Area. What’s left of the Lost Coast’s populous is in several communities that still inhabit the region, such as Westport, Shelter Cove, and Whitehorn.

Cape Mendocino © Jesse Palmer

Unlike an ordinary road trip route, the Lost Coast comes with a natural obstacle course. The scenic path between State Route 1 and Highway 101 navigates along California’s western edge, where visitors head down the 28-mile stretch of Mattadole Road, also know as The Wildcat. After an intrepid journey through alpine forests, tiny towns, and steep backroads, The Wildcat breaks into ocean views and leads to the only restaurant-bar found within miles of the Lost Coast, The Yellow Rose.

Within the coastline terrain are beaches and forests accessible on foot. Centerville Beach, the idyllic waterfront is a desolate spot that attracts picnickers, horseback riders, bird watchers, and even whale watchers in the spring and fall. The wild waves of the coast crash along the sandy shorelines, bluffs, and cliffsides that can all be enjoyed from the day-use park area and Fleener Creek Overlook.

King Range NCA, California © Bureau of Land Management / Flickr

The ultimate undisturbed beauty lies in the Lost Coast Headlands National Monument. This spot where ocean meets land is teeming with wildlife. With an estimated 200,000 seabirds and thousands of marine mammals, it’s an untrammeled habitat for nature lovers. Visitors often spot Steller sea lions hunting through the waters and taking care of their young, before hiking along the headlands to explore as much of the 463 acres as possible.

The Lost Coast is a deserted terrain that lives outside of reality. It’s an explorer’s paradise, replete with untouched land, wildlife, and natural scenery.