Along the northern coast of California, civilization has left its mark on all but the most rugged or remote stretches of coastline. One stretch that is largely untouched by major highways and towns is the King Range National Conservation Area. The King Range rises from sea level to a 4,087-foot elevation at Kings Peak in less than three miles. Extremely steep and rocky terrain extends right to the beach, and forced the coastal highway (combined Highways 1 and 101) about 30 miles inland from the King Range. The remote region is known as California's Lost Coast.
Shelter Cove- near the south end of the King Range National Conservation Area - is surrounded largely by privately-owned land, but about 10 acres are public land managed by the BLM. Public access is mainly at marked pull-outs along Lower Pacific Drive, at Black Sands Beach, Mal Coombs Park, Seal Rock Picnic Area and Abalone Point.
Picture: Roosevelt elk graze in highlands above the Lost Coast beach, in the King Range National Conservation Area.
Animals you may see here
- Birds, resident and migrating, including pelicans, gulls, terns, pelagic cormorants and bald eagles.
- Spring and fall: phalaropes, turnstones and other shorebirds seek Black Sands Beach.
- Harbor seals and sea lions, especially on offshore rocks at Seal Rock Picnic Area.
- California gray whales - look for them to pass within 100 yards of shore as they migrate, especially during January and February.
- Tide pool life, especially in Mal Coombs Park.
- Birds: nearly 300 species of native and migratory birds have been seen spotted in the King Range. The old growth fir forest is important habitat for such sensitive species as the spotted owl, pileated woodpecker and the endangered bald eagle.
- Significant populations of black-tailed deer and black bear find habitat in the Douglas-fir forest, grassland and chaparal.
- A small herd of Roosevelt elk was reintroduced to the conservation area in 1982, and now roam from Shelter Cove south to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
Viewing tips for this area
- Very good viewing any time of year. But May to September is likely to be the most comfortable for human viewers - note the next item on weather.
- This is one of the wettest spots on the Pacific Ocean, as moist ocean air meets the coastal King Range. From October to April, expect rain. From May to September, warm, dry days may alternate with frequent dense fog - one day may bring fog, drizzle and 60 degrees, while the next is a dry 85 degrees. Prepare for rapid weather changes by bringing plenty of clothing layers, and carry rain gear on extended hikes.
- At oceanside beaches or on coastal trails, never turn your back on the ocean; large "sleeper" waves can occur at any time, sweeping unsuspecting hikers into the ocean.
- See important information for hikers.
- Be sure to see tips for "Ultimate Wildlife Watching."
How to get here
- Shelter Cove: From Highway 101 near Garberville. follow signs to Redway and Shelter Cove. In Redway, turn west on Briceland Road. Follow Briceland for about 14 miles to Whitethorn/Shelter Cove Junction. Turn onto Shelter Cove Road. Follow signs about 11 miles to the cove and Lower Pacific Drive. Signs mark public land turnoffs along Lower Pacific Drive, from Mal Coombs Park to Black sands Beach.
- The Lost Coast: A 24-mile section of the Lost Coast Trail leads north from Black Sands Beach to the Mattole River, along the wilderness beach. This is a rugged hike, not a simple walk on the beach, but the trail is considered one of the most attractive features of the conservation area. See important information for hikers, with a link to information about other trails in the conservation area.
- The rest of the King Range National Conservation Area includes a network of paved, graveled and dirt roads allows motorized sightseeing of much of the area, with signs at most roads indicating direction, mileage and driving conditions. But watch out: many roads are steep, and especially watch for slides and washouts during the winter rain season.
Size: Much of the land around Shelter Cove is privately owned, but about 10 acres are public lands managed by the BLM. The King Range National Conservation Area includes about 52,000 acres of public land managed by the BLM. Please respect the rights of private property owners, who own about 8,000 acres within the Conservation Area.
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management.
For more information, contact: Bureau of Land Management's Arcata Field Office.
- And see the King Range National Conservation Area/Lost Coast Web pages.
Site 28 in the California Wildlife Viewing Guide.
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