Sinkyone Wilderness (The Lost Coast)
Mendocino County, California
May 23, 2003


During our trip to Fort Bragg, my fiance Beth clamored to lead me on a day hike into the Sinkyone Wilderness. During her year living in Fort Bragg, it was one of her favorite places to visit, camp, hike or backpack. She was very high on this hike and naturally, I fed off her enthusiasm and happily let her lead me in. The Sinkyone State Park stretches for about 25 miles along the Pacific Ocean, in northern Mendocino and southern Humboldt counties. It is often referred to as "The Lost Coast", as its utter ruggedness has staved off development to this day. In fact, the famous highway CA-1, which literally hugs the coast from its start in San Diego and all the way up to the Oregon border, veers from the coast at this point, simply because the engineers could not hew in the highway so easily in this cliff-laden coastline. A number of very tenuous and sketchy dirt roads snake in the area, but for the most part, the only access to much of this land is by foot. It is not hard to imagine that there are parcels of land that have never been trod upon by humans.

We came down CA-1 from Leggett and US-101, where we took a side trip to drive through a redwood- a tunnel having been bored through the base of an enormous redwood. Very touristy and kitschy ... and fun. Coming down CA-1, we missed the turnout to Usal Road, which is the main road into the southern Sinkyone Wilderness; we realized our error when we got to the coast itself. The turn out wasn't well-marked as Usal Road, as it's called on our maps. Instead, it's known as FR-431, and only spray painted "Usal" on a nearby post. In any case, we came back up and found it, and started in.

We drove 6 miles up the very steep and twisty dirt track, often only one lane wide and with numerous blind curves. At one point we made a turn and found ourselves about 800 feet above the surf and literally cliffs below. Absolutely amazing, and a little bit scary, too. Finally, 6 miles of slow rolling got us to the trailhead. Many people were already here, in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend.

Our plan was to hike north along the trail for about two hours, have a lunch, then come back out. The trail itself leads all the way up the park, about a 22-mile one way hike, and many people back-pack it. The first bit of trail switchbacked steeply up the east sides of the hill amid thick forest. I spooked a little garter snake along the way. Finally, we topped out at a ridge and a grassy meadow, with views of the coast and the mountains together. The rest of the hike was essentially through mostly-open grassy meadows with occasional stands of trees. The trail was cut into the hillside, with about 300-600 feet of vertical difference above the beaches. Views were amazing. We finally hiked up some switchbacks toward an obvious promontory, where we stopped and took a break for lunch. This was our turn-around point; I figured we'd covered about 2 miles. The hike out was great, too. I cannot describe fully enough just how gorgeous this land is! Utterly unlike anything I have ever hiked before.

Photos (Click to enlarge)

The Lost Coast

More Lost Coast

The fog rolls in

More fog rolling in

Looking north

Beth and me

Me with fog


Beth again


Me again

Me again again

The two of us

Down where the creek runs
into the ocean

Me in the surf

Me, surf, again

The Sinkyone privy

The view from the privy!

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(c) 2005, 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.