General Trip Planning Information
BEAR ALERT! There is a serious bear problem along the entire beach. 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.
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.
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.
BLM Special Recreation Use Permits are required for all commercial outfitters, universities, and other organized groups accessing the King Range.For information on obtaining a special recreation use permit, please contact the King Range Office at (707) 986-5400.
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!
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.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
From October to April, the King Range wrings moisture from Pacific storms, making it one of the wettest spots in the U.S. Local weather stations typically average 100+ inches annually of rainfall, and during wet years, 200+ inches can fall along the Lost Coast. Snow can blanket the higher peaks after storms, but typically doesn't last for long. The coast rarely sees frost or snow. Sunny weather hikes are still possible in winter during breaks between storms. Scattered showers can linger into early June.
From May - September, the King Crest is normally warm and dry with temperatures reaching the 80's - 90's in mid-summer. At the base of the peaks, the King Range coastline sees less of the cool fog that characterizes much of northern California's Coast, but coastal weather is still highly variable -- 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. Always carry rain gear on extended hikes. Summer winds along the King Crest and Lost Coast Trails are often very strong and erratic. Plan to choose a sheltered camping spot and secure your tent.
Check the weather forecast at: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka
Tides are created by the known and predictable gravitational pull of the sun and moon in their relationship to the earth. Tides are also affected by unpredictable forces of nature (winds, storms, river runs, atmospheric pressure changes). An understanding of the forces causing ocean tides is complex.
Generally, there will be 2 high tides and 2 low tides every 24 hours occuring approximately 50 minutes later each day. During periods of full moon or new moon high tides are usually higher than normal and low tides are usually lower than normal. During periods of the first quarter and last quarter the high tides and the low tides are usually less than normal.
** DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK TO THE OCEAN; BE WATCHFUL AT ALL TIMES **
The ocean along the north coast of California is very unpredictable. Visitors should never attempt to swim or enter the water along this stretch of coastline. The water is very cold and survival is limited to 20 minutes without a wetsuit. The Northern California coastline has very strong undertow and rip currents. Always stay aware of ocean conditions while hiking along the Lost Coast beaches. Larger than normal sets of waves, also known as "sneaker" or "rogue" waves, with high energy can race far up the beach without warning. Unsuspecting hikers can be washed out to sea in an instant from these occurrences.
Safety and Current Conditions
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.
Be prepared to get yourself out of any situation you put yourself into. Emergency response time in the King Range may be hours at best. Avoid rescue situations through preperations and prevention. Proper clothing, enough food, and a first aid kit are as essential as knowing your group's limitations. When prevention fails, self-rescue may be your next step. Do not rely on cell phone coverage. 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.