Designated in 1970, the King Range National Conservation Area rises up from the Pacific Ocean with heights up to 4088 feet, just a few miles from the ocean. It encompasses 68000 acres and spans 35 miles along the north coast of California. The landscape is rugged and heavily wooded with Douglas fir-covered terrain. The backcountry of the area was designated as official wilderness in 2006 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The King Range National Conservation Area has over 80 miles of hiking trails along beaches and up to mountain peaks that provide breathtaking views. The area is also the location of world-class mountain biking trails. The coastal areas attract surfers, anglers, and beachcombers.
Winter storms can bring severe weather such as high winds, heavy rains, and raised surf, causing dangerous conditions that affect the conditions of trails at high elevations and along the coast. Trails may become impassable due to downed trees, flooding, and mudslides. High temperatures during the summer months can cause heat-related illnesses especially with strenuous activity, so pack plenty of water, sunscreen and plan activities for cooler times of the day.
Nearby state parks in the area also provide excellent destinations for camping and recreation. While in the region visit Benbow Lake State Recreation Area or Richardson Grove State Park. RVs can be obtained at RV Rentals California for those looking to explore this coastal mountainous area and take in the natural beauty.
The King Range National Conservation Area was preserved in part because of the inability to build highways through the rugged terrain. Paved highways run to the east of the area and provide limited access to the wilderness areas. However, reaching the interior areas of the park must be done using dirt surfaced back roads, cycling, or hiking trails.
The King Range is located on the North California coast approximately 230 miles north of San Francisco and 60 miles south of Eureka. Roadways leading to the range are narrow, steep, and winding and require vehicles to proceed slowly, so travel time in the area may take longer than you anticipate. Large RV units and tow vehicles may have difficulty negotiating tight turns, and sightlines are reduced. Some backcountry roads do not allow RVs and trailers, or do not allow them past certain points. Also, due to the remoteness of the area, ensure your vehicle is topped up with fuel for traveling in the region as service stations are few and far between! Main roads are generally accessible to passenger vehicles, but winter storms in the area can result in road closures when fallen trees, mudslides, and flooding impacts local roads. Backcountry roads may be closed seasonally, depending on weather conditions. Detailed information on where RVs are permitted and conditions and closures of routes and trails in the area can be found at Road and Trail Condition Report.
There are several areas accessible for vehicles and smaller RVs, campers, camper vans, or tent trailers. No reservations are required and the campgrounds are open all year round. Camping facilities at these campsites are minimal to preserve the natural, remote, rustic feel. Bears are an issue in the region and campers should bring sealed bear-proof food storage containers, as they are not provided on-site. Pets are permitted in the King Range Conservation Area but should stay on trails, and on campsites, and remain leashed.
The Mattole Campground has 14 tent and trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, potable water and is wheelchair accessible.
Honeydew Creek Campground, has five tent and trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. The campground is near a creek and you can treat water for drinking. The sites are wheelchair accessible.
Horse Mountain Campground has campsites but no facilities .
Tolkan Campground has five trailer and four tent campsites with tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and is ADA accessible.
Nadelos Campground has eight tent campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and water from a nearby creek that must be treated. The entire campground can be reserved for overnight group camping with a minimum number of 20 people and a maximum group of 60 people. Applications and fees must be received 30 days prior to camping.
Wailaki Campground has 13 tent/trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and is wheelchair accessible. Water is available from a nearby creek,but you must treat the water before drinking.
Camping is permitted in the BLM lands at King Range but backpackers staying overnight require permits. Campers are encouraged to find sites that have been previously used to minimize disruption to the natural habitat and avoid disturbing vegetation as much as possible. There is a 14 day limit for camping stays in the backcountry at a single location. Waste must be disposed of properly, there are no restrooms out in the backcountry areas, and human waste must be buried at least six inches deep and 200 feet from creeks, camps, and trails.
Dishes can be washed in the intertidal zone. Backpackers staying in the area must have hard-sided bear-proof canisters to store food. Please do not build driftwood shelters as this encourages rodent activity. Campfire restrictions may be in effect from mid-June to October in the area, check with the King Range Project Office for fire restrictions and to obtain campfire and camping permits for the backcountry.
The King Range National Conservation Area is an avian lover's paradise with excellent bird watching opportunities. The region provides a wide variety of habitats for different bird species throughout the year, and especially during the migration seasons and winter months. The high terrain and mixed forest along with the riparian areas such as estuaries, creeks, rivers, and ocean, provide diverse, unique habitat to support large numbers of bird populations and species.
An online field guide Birds of the King Range provides detailed information and descriptions of the many different species that you can spot in the area. Take a field guide, binoculars, and a camera, and head out on the King Range to discover some feathered friends.
The diverse ecosystems present in the King Range National Conservation Area, the remoteness from human settlement, and the reduced accessibility, especially in the off-season, make for excellent wildlife activity and viewing. Wildlife watchers will find a variety of large and small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in the region.
One of the unique inhabitants of the area is the Northern Elephant Seal, which you may locate along the Lost Coast Trail, near the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. Although they may seem slow and docile, these animals can move fast when disturbed, so you should keep a healthy distance. Bears are also common in the area, so much so that hikers and backpackers must carry bear-proof food containers for any food and perishables. During the winter months, bears hibernate and unpleasant encounters are less likely.
Surfing along the Lost Coast is a popular pastime for adventurous surfers with the best season being during the fall and winter. An area about eight miles north of Shelter Cove called Big Flat is reported to have exceptional surfing where the area juts out into the ocean. This area is the last land north of the south end of the Black Sand Beach.
Surf in this remote location can be challenging, and there are no roads to the coastal area, so you will need to hike in with your board. The Pacific Ocean water is cold at this time of year and dry suits are recommended. Waves range from inconsistent ground swells to double overhead barrels and you might have to hit the right time, or wait for that perfect wave! Don't surf alone and use caution in the area when weather systems stir up big waves along the rocky coastal areas.
World class mountain biking trails are situated in the backcountry of the King Range National Conservation Area. The Paradise Royale Mountain Bike Trail System consists of 24 miles of trails, plus there's a terrain park with tabletops, gap jumps, wall rides, and a pump track. The trails travel through lush coastal forests and provide spectacular views of the ocean.
The MTB area was developed in conjunction with local cycling organizations to ensure they provided a challenging bike system that is also environmentally sustainable. The interconnecting cycling trails are rated for different ability levels, although the terrain lends itself to more experienced riders. Ensure you have appropriate equipment and experience to handle this rough cycling terrain.
The King Range National Conservation Area, including the BLM managed backcountry, has over 80 miles of hiking trails. Trails reach high elevations in the mountainous areas and meander along the coast and beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The terrain is steep and rugged and can be strenuous to navigate in many places, with significant elevation changes.
Trails have numerous connectors permitting loop hikes, so you can customize your route to the desired length. There are no facilities like restrooms in the backcountry and minimal signage along the trails. Bury human waste six inches deep and 200 meters from trails. Dogs are permitted on trails but should remain leashed and be in good physical condition to handle the trail. Hard-sided, sealed, bear-proof food canisters are required to transport any food in and out of the area.
Remote BLM backcountry trails such as Rattlesnake Ridge, Spanish Ridge, and Cooskie Creek may be overgrown or have deadfall blocking trials that will need to be cleared or skirted around. Winter storms create hazardous conditions for hiking in the area, and summer hikers will meet with less adverse conditions. Trail conditions and maps are available online and it is recommended that you check conditions and have up to date maps on hand when hiking in the backcountry.
Because the Lost Coast area is so remote and only accessible on foot for several mile hikes, you can find some excellent undisturbed beaches adjacent to the King Range Conservation Area for beach activities. As tides retreat after weather systems, numerous shells, polished glass, and driftwood washes up on shore to investigate.
Stretch out on the beach on a sunny day or wade in the ocean. Use caution in the area as large sea mammals like elephant seals make the beaches here their home and should be given a wide berth as they can become dangerous if provoked.