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Visir Lost Coast

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Highways 1 and 101 run alongside the full length of California's Pacific coastline, generally a few miles or less from the ocean apart from two extended sections where the roads move further inland - for 60 miles around Point Arguello, south of San Luis Obispo where much of the land is used by an air force base, and for 75 miles south of Eureka. This northern region, mostly in Humboldt County, is known as the Lost Coast owing to its remoteness, inaccessibility and lack of settlement, and is claimed to be the longest section of undeveloped coastline in the whole USA (apart from Alaska), the main rival to this being Padre Island in Texas.

The isolation is due to the high and steep-sided King Range, some peaks of which rise to 3,000 feet less than two miles from the ocean, sloping down abruptly to the coast and extending for many miles inland, as far as the redwood-lined valley of the Eel River, that provides a route for US 101. Along the 75 miles of the Lost Coast there are only two paved roads that reach the Pacific (see map); a dead-end route to Shelter Cove, and a road south from Ferndale which runs right beside the ocean for a few miles then provides another access point near Petrolia, at Mattole Beach. The wildest and most spectacular section is the 25 mile stretch between here and Shelter Cove, all of which can be seen via a backpacking trip on a long distance path (the Lost Coast National Recreation Trail) that runs partly over the grassy mountain foothills but mostly on the beach, across some places covered by the sea at high tide. For day visits, the first few miles give a good introduction to the coastal scenery, as far as the disused Punta Gorda Lighthouse - the walk also passes narrow valleys, old cabins, volcanic black sand beaches, tide pools filled with much marine life, and isolated rocks in the ocean that are home to elephant seals and sea lions.

Much of this stretch of the mountains and shoreline is protected as the King Range National Conservation Area, some parts of which can be reached by rough, unpaved tracks to high elevation trailheads, but the road from Petrolia is the main entry point. Most of the area is a federally designated wilderness. South of Shelter Cove, 13 miles of the coast is contained within Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, reached by a particularly winding unpaved road, and offering similar though more forested scenery, even less visited.