Northern California is home to many magnificent natural resources, from giant redwoods to enormous mountains, and miles of coastline. The Lost Coast Headlands Trail follows a remote and rugged section of the Pacific coastline for 27 miles and allows you to experience the beauty of these resources, far from roads and towns. Hiking the trail requires commitment and stamina, and just getting there is a difficult journey through mountain passes and over peaks on a steep, narrow and sometimes unpaved road. The reward is magnificent views of the sea and lush shore, mountains, redwood forests, and boulder-strewn beaches that disappear dramatically with the high tide.
The trail begins about 6 miles from the quaint town of Ferndale and flows through Fleener and Guthrie Creeks' watershed areas. The northernmost of its 8 trailheads is at the mouth of the Mattole River as it spills into the ocean, where you'll find parking and a kiosk with directions to the beach, a .5-mile walk west. Turning south, your senses are immediately assaulted by the sight, sound and smell of crumbling, windswept bluffs, rolling hills covered with green grasses, frothy wave after wave, the ever-present mist and sharp, saline smell of the ocean.
Several campgrounds lie just inland, and there are places to pitch a tent well above the waterline for primitive tenting. The nearby King Mountain Range provides a constant backdrop to the east, and the sunsets to the west are remarkable. The long hike of the full length of the trail is not for those who dislike solitude and quiet - there is plenty of both. The deserted beaches and coves are not where you'll find noisy families playing in the waves, but you may find furtastic beachcombing and tide pool exploration. Bird-watching and wildlife viewing become routine activities as you become one with the environment. You're likely to spy lizards, elk, bears and snakes at the higher elevations or as you climb over the rocks to escape the incoming tide.
Whether you choose to do short day hikes or attempt the entire trail to Usal Beach in the south, the Lost Coast Headlands will challenge your skills and help to build a closer bond with your pup. It will be an experience you won't soon forget.
The Lost Coast Trail's remoteness and sometimes hazardous terrain makes it a challenging hike. There is very little cell coverage here, so be sure to check in with family or friends from time to time and provide them with an itinerary. Although dogs can hike with you leash-free, keep them safe by restraining them along steep drop offs and keep an eye on the tides and surf.