King Range National Conservation Area: Hiking & Backpacking
The King Range contains over 80 miles of hiking trails spanning from the beach to the highest peaks. Most of the upland trails are strenuous due to the steep rugged nature of the area. In addition to mileage, pay attention to the elevation changes listed in the trail descriptions. A number of connector trails allow for loop hikes. The King Range backcountry was designated as official wilderness on October 17, 2006 and the BLM manages it accordingly, so expect no facilities and minimal signing on trails. Some of the lesser used trails (such as Rattlesnake Ridge, Spanish Ridge and Cooskie Creek) may be somewhat overgrown and difficult to follow. Its best to carry a map and compass with you, and call the BLM office before your trip to get the latest trail conditions.
Know Before You Go
- BEAR WARNING! There is a serious bear problem along the entire beach, especially at Miller Flat and Big Flat. Bears are coming into camp and taking food. This is a dangerous situation for people and bears alike. BEAR RESISTANT CANISTERS ARE REQUIRED as hanging food is not an effective method on the coast. Please DO NOT feed the bears.
- Dogs are allowed in the King Range. Owners are advised that the trails are difficult on dogs. Your canine should be above in average physical condition and special attention should be given to your dog's paws, as the rocky trails can cause cuts and/or swelling in paw tissues on even the most fit animals. Some hikers provide their dogs with 'booties' to protect against paw damage. Dogs should be on a leash no longer than 6' in a developed campground. Outside of developed campgrounds they do not need to be on a leash, but should be under voice control at all times.
- Poison Oak and ticks WILL, and rattlesnakes may, be encountered along the trails. Ticks carry debilitating Lyme disease. Check your selves and clothing frequently for ticks while hiking in brushy and/or grassy terrain, particularly near the coast.
- Search and rescue in the backcountry can take many hours--be prepared and extra cautious.
- Water is available year round from coastal streams, but should always be purified before drinking. Water sources are scarce on upland trails such as the King Crest. Carry plenty of water on these trails.
- Individuals, families, or 'non-organized' groups need self-service backcountry permits for all overnight use of the King Range backcountry, including the Lost Coast Trail. The free permits, which also serve as California campfire permits for the King Range, are available in self-service boxes at King Range trailheads, King Range Project Office in Whitethorn and BLM Arcata Field Office in Arcata. Hikers will be asked to complete a brief form leaving one part in the permit collection box or at the office, and keeping the second part with them while in the King Range.
- During high fire danger the use of fires may be suspended (camp stoves are still authorized). Please check with the local BLM office prior to leaving for current campfire restrictions.
- If you build a fire, use existing fire rings and burn only dead/down wood or driftwood. Put your fires out with water before you leave your campsite or go to sleep. DO NOT bury with sand!
- Choose campsites in already impacted spots.
- Hike and camp in small groups, preferably six or less.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles; such as, bury all human waste in the sand below the high tide line or 6-8" deep and at least 200 feet (approx. 70 paces) from streams when you are not near the ocean. Pack out trash, do not bury.
- Respect landowners' privacy; ask permission to cross private property.
- Respect wildlife. If animals notice your presence, you're too close.
- Shuttle Services: 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. In order to legally provide transport for hire on public lands, shuttle service providers must be issued a special recreation use permit from the BLM. This permit ensures that the provider is knowledgeable of BLM's regulations and requirements for hiking and camping in the King Range, and has the proper insurance for transporting people. For a list of Shuttle Service providers who have been issued a permit please visit the Shuttle Services page .