King Range Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

The King Range Wilderness is forty-thousand acres of BLM land in California. The wilderness is completely encompassed by the King Range National Conservation Area, which lines the coast of California for thirty-five miles. The wilderness is a place where rugged mountains almost meet the sea, the union of the two only interrupted by swathes of deserted beaches and extensive stretches of coastal prairie.

The King Range Wilderness has an incredible biological and botanical diversity as it offers a unique habitat suitable for both terrestrial and marine flora and fauna. The landscape of the wilderness is dominated by the peaks of the King Range and particularly by the four-thousand-foot high King Peak, the lower slopes of which are covered in Douglas fir, tanoak, and knobcone pine. The wilderness also has an amazing seascape of endless and uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. BLM lands in California really just don't get any better than the King Range Wilderness.

If your ideal RV vacation involves hiking over mountain trails or along a beach where the waves crash against the shore, the King Range Wilderness delivers both and within a very short distance of each other. There's as much marine life to see in this wilderness as there are land-bound creatures like deer, elk, bears and mountain lions and off the coast, you could spot seals, sea lions, and otters. Birdlife is prolific too and varies from quail and grouse to osprey and turkey vultures and many more species in-between. This paradisical BLM property can only be reached on roads not suitable for rigs, but there's a BLM campground in the northern section of the NCA where you can pitch up then set out to explore what has become known as California's Lost Coast.

RV Rentals in King Range Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

While getting to the King Range Wilderness is not an easy thing to do, it is possible nearly all year round in a car. Most of the paved roads into the wilderness are narrow and winding but passable as long as there's been no snowfall. Some unpaved roads are closed for safety reasons after heavy rainfall. If RV camping in the Kings Range NCA is part of your vacation plan, the best place to head for is Ferndale then continue on to the small town of Petrolia from where it's just five miles along the Lighthouse Road to the Mattole Recreation Area where the campground is located.

If you're motoring out of San Francisco to the King Range Wilderness, you'll find it's a relatively decent trip along the US 101 that will take around five and a half hours. It's a scenic drive too as the US 101 runs between the Jackson State Forest and the Mendocino National Forest. If you're driving down from the Redwood National Park north of Eureka for a change of scene from trees to ocean, you'll have a coastal run on the US 101 southbound all the way that will see you behind the wheel of your rig for less than three hours.

Parking

There is a parking facility at the Mattole Recreation Area for use by day visitors to the King Range Wilderness.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in King Range Wilderness

Campsites in King Range Wilderness

Alternate camping

Mattole Campground

The Mattole Campground is a small BLM campground in the Kings Range NCA. It's the best place to pitch camp in your RV for hitting the Lost Coast Trail of the Kings Range Wilderness.

The fourteen available campsites are without utility hook-ups but are furnished with picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. Drinking water is available on-site most of the time. The campground operates on a first-come-first-served basis all year round.

Humboldt County Fairgrounds

If you don't like primitive camping you can take a pitch at the RV park on the Humboldt County Fairground. Located a few minutes from Ferndale, the campground is just a short drive to the Kings Range Wilderness. The site has sixty pitches with full utility hook-ups and there are showers, toilets and a dump station.

Seasonal activities in King Range Wilderness

In-Season

Hiking

There are some great hikes in the Kings Range Wilderness. While you might not want to complete all of the twenty-five miles of the Lost Coast Recreational Trail, you'll definitely want to trek part of it while you're there. The out and back trail is beach all the way, though there are some rocky parts that are more challenging as well as some streams to cross.

Hikers should also be aware of the tides as they can on occasion be dangerous. For a mountain hike with breathtaking ocean views, hit the Kings Peak Trail. The five-mile-long loop climbs up the side of Kings Peak to an elevation of over two-thousand-feet. The trail is well-maintained but the road to the trailhead can be difficult to negotiate unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Surfing

If you know how to ride a wave or have been longing to give surfing a try, don't forget to lash your surfboard to the roof of your rig before setting out for the Kings Range Wilderness. The endless, uncrowded sands of the wilderness receive steady beach breakers that are ideal for both novice and more advanced surfers. While you may not be gunning through any big tubes, there will be the occasional wave that will be more challenging. Before going surfing, make sure you understand the tides to avoid getting cut off on the beach.

Humboldt County Fair

If you're going RV camping to the King Range Wilderness during August check to see if your visit coincides with the Humboldt County Fair. The annual ten-day event is held on the outskirts of Ferndale and showcases sheep dog trials, a bull-o-rama, horse racing and much more. There's also a huge fairground operating throughout the event with lots of exciting rides.

Off-Season

Foraging

The Kings Range Wilderness has a varied plantlife and its remoteness from urbanization and lack of chemical treatments means its a superb place for foraging. Anyone setting out to gather plants from the area must have previously applied for a collection permit.

One of the most delectable finds is matsutake mushrooms, a gourmet delight that grows wild under the tanoaks. As with everything when you're foraging, to avoid accidental poisoning, make sure you're one hundred percent certain of what you're picking before eating it.

Wildlife Viewing

The King Range Wilderness is teeming with bird and animal life both on and off-shore. Find a comfortable spot on the beach, exercise a little patience and you could see otters running along the water's edge and out to sea, plus sea lions, seals, and many species of maritime birds.

Large mammals are common sights in the woodland areas of the mountains. Deer love to graze on the matsutake mushrooms under the tanoaks, while higher on the crags, keep an eye out for mountain lions hunting the bighorn sheep.

Ferndale

Even if you're heading to the Kings Range Wilderness for a respite from civilization, take the time to visit Ferndale and have a wander around. You'll find yourself time-warped back to the Victorian days as you walk through the streets of well-conserved houses and stores that date back to the late 19th century.

To find out all about the gold rush days, take a look inside the Ferndale Museum where you'll find exhibits of everything from a blacksmith's forge to a doll's house and a crank telephone still in working condition.