The Lost Coast Trail has several sections which are impassable at high tide, and it is essential that you bring a tide chart along to avoid becoming trapped in one of these spots.
Time: 4-5 hours
Elevation gain: 100 ft
When to go: Year-round
I was the first one up, and took some time to play with my Olloclip macro lens for an early morning micro-adventure, cataloguing the various wildflowers right at our campsite. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant and beautiful the world is, and often hidden in plain sight.
No more than half a mile down the trail we passed another Lost Coast cabin further down Spanish Flat, looking well-kept and lived in.
At the one mile mark, we crossed through a shady thicket of low trees at Oat Creek. The fog kept the temperatures perfect for hiking.
At two miles, we crossed Kinsey Creek, and marveled at how many creeks there were running this late in summer during a drought. You are never far from fresh water sources on the Lost Coast. In southern California, we’ve grown accustomed to carrying all the water we’ll need for a hike, and it took us while to realize that no, we don’t need to carry three liters of water. One will do.
At three miles, the ancient jeep trail we’d been following on Spanish Flat disappeared — a victim of erosion and the ever-changing coastline. We dropped down to the beach and started hiking on cobbled stones that crunched under our boots.
At 3.6 miles we paused and took a break at Big Creek. Someone had built a rather elaborate structure out of driftwood. This practice is frowned upon by the rangers, as it runs counter to the leave no trace philosophy.
It was at Big Creek that we also saw our first sign of other people in almost two days. A tent was setup at a campsite not far away.
We picked our way down the coast. Hiking on these rocks was difficult and slow, so we tried to stick as close as possible to the base of the bluffs where the ground was at least a little bit more solid.
At 4.6 miles, the trail climbed atop a terrace. We had reached the northern limit of Big Flat. The trail begins to climb, reaching the highest on our trail — a mere 100 feet or so above sea level — through thick, twisted pine trees.
When we finally emerged we came down to the broad terrace of the flat. The trail travels straight through grassy fields. We were wary of rattlesnakes and ticks, but had no problems with either.
The trail widens from single track to double track, eventually becoming a makeshift dirt air strip at mile six. We had heard about this air strip, and it was interesting to finally see it. Not much more than flat, straight dirt road that passed right by the nicest cabins we’d seen yet. The one was definitely inhabited, with solar panels for power and at least one person working in the yard. What a life.
Deer grazed nearby, and one young fawn passed in front of us, completely unfazed by our presence. Not far past the cabin the trail turns abruptly 90 degrees and heads straight toward the ocean before turning to follow near the top of the bluff.
At 7 miles, we reached Big Flat Creek. It’s a big creek, and there are a number of good camp sites on both sides of it. We dropped our packs and scouted out the best. I had my eye on the tall forest of trees on the south side of the creek on Miller Flat, and found an idyllic spot out the hot afternoon sun.
While there really isn’t a bad campsite on the Lost Coast, this was the most comfortable. It was a fitting site for our final night on the trail.
We were the first in the area to set up camp, but we were not alone. Over the next few hours several other small groups of backpackers showed up. It was the most people we had seen yet, but even so we were spread out. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset we saw other people, but back in our camp we had solitude and privacy.
Lost Coast Trail: Day Three Map
Day Three on the Lost Coast: Photo Gallery
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Shelter Cove Weather Forecast
Chance of a Thunderstorm49°/37°
Come back tomorrow for Day 4 on the Lost Coast Trail!