Rocks and Islands Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

The Rocks and Islands Wilderness is a nineteen acre BLM property in the North Pacific Ocean. The wilderness is comprised of over five-hundred small rock pinnacles in the off-shore waters along the part of northern California known as the Lost Coast. The mini-islands, some of which measure no more than a square foot, are the natural habitat of multiple species of seabirds and sea mammals. There are several marine conservation areas in the ocean around the wilderness including the Big Flat State Marine Conservation Area. The terrestrial Kings Range Conservation Area stretches for thirty-five miles along the nearest shoreline to the maritime wilderness.

The Rocks and Islands Wilderness is not accessible to humans but can be seen from a distance on a boat, by kayak or from on-shore by using a good pair of binoculars while at various strategic viewpoints along the coastline. One major seasonal attraction for visitors to the area are the migrating gray whales which swim through during the springtime. Fishing is also a favorite pastime for visitors to this part of the Lost Coast and there are opportunities for both on-shore anglers and sport or spearfishing fans. Hikers can enjoy the views of the off-shore wilderness and its wildlife when trekking the Lost Coast Trail. The closest RV camping options to the Rocks and Islands Wilderness is in the King Range Conservation Area or at a private campground in Shelter Cove.

RV Rentals in Rocks and Islands Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

To get to see the Rocks and Islands Wilderness means accessing the Lost Coast and this part of the northern Californian coast hasn't remained undeveloped for no reason. Just getting to the campgrounds in the King Range Conservation is a major achievement, and getting to Shelter Cove isn't much easier.

To arrive at Shelter Cove, you'll need to drive down the CA 101 which passes through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Turn off at the junction with Briceland Road which twists and turns for over twenty miles, merging with Shelter Cove Road along the way, until it reaches the coast and the remote urbanization. Although it is an asphalted highway, it's not a road for a large rig.

Access to the two campgrounds in the northern region of the King Range NCA can be reached by taking the turn-offs for Honeydew from the CA 101 which leads down the winding Mattole Road. Make a right turn in Honeydew for the campground or a left if you want to see the King Range Wilderness, another BLM property located within the NCA boundaries.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Rocks and Islands Wilderness

Campsites in Rocks and Islands Wilderness

Alternate camping

King Range National Conservation Area

There are two RV camping options in the King Range National Conservation Area relatively close to the off-shore location of the Rocks and Islands Wilderness. Both of the campgrounds are small, primitive and because of the tricky access roads, not suitable for large rigs.

The Mattole Campground is a beachfront site with fourteen pitches located in the north of the NCA which can be reached from the CA 101 by taking either the South Fork or Honeydew exits and heading down Mattole Road. Each campsite is furnished with a grill and picnic table though the only on-site amenity is a vault toilet. There are no utility hook-ups or water on the campground.

The Honeydew Creek Campground offers RV campers in the King Range NCA five campsites for rigs no longer than twenty-five feet. There are no utility hook-ups or water on-site, but the pitches do have fire rings, and picnic tables plus there's a vault toilet for public use. The campground can be reached by taking the turning for Honeydew off the CA 101. Campsites at both the Mattole Campground and the Honeydew Creek Campground are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Shelter Cove

There is a private RV campground in Shelter Cove with over one-hundred campsites distributed around a dirt-surfaced field. The ocean-front pitches are unpaved but have electricity and water hook-ups. The on-site facilities are basic and consist of restrooms, showers, and laundry.

RV campers heading to this campground in Shelter Cove should be aware that the access road is very difficult to negotiate and it's best to go in a small rig under thirty-five feet.

Seasonal activities in Rocks and Islands Wilderness

In-Season

Hiking

Set out from the Mattole Campground in the northern region of the King Range NCA and you'll be able to access one of the trailheads to the Lost Coast Trail. The trail runs along the shoreline for over twenty-five miles. The trek is mostly over sand with the occasional rocky creek to cross and after a few miles, you'll be able to view parts of the off-shore Rocks and Islands Wilderness.

It's a lengthy out and back walk, so take plenty of provisions. The trip will reward you with fresh sea air and the chance to see lots of maritime wildlife. If you've pitched camp in Shelter Cove, don't miss hiking the Black Sands Trail. It's a relatively short trail but graded difficult. You won't get a glimpse of the wilderness, but you will find a small, scenic cove where there is a black sand beach.

Whale Watching

To see the impressive sight of the gray whales migrating, the best time to plan your RV camping trip to the Lost Coast is in springtime. Whales can be seen sometimes from as early as April right the way through to June, and it's even possible to witness the birth of whale calves on occasion.

While gray whales are the most common sighting, you could also see humpback and blue whales though sightings of these species is much rarer.

Picnicking

If you just want to spend the day by the ocean, getting some blasts of the invigorating sea air or have mobility impairments that you restrict you from hiking the beach, stop off at the Seal Rock Day Use Area. The ADA accessible site is located in Shelter Cove and is a great spot for relaxing with a picnic while viewing the stunning coastline and the varied wildlife that inhabits it. The day-use area has interpretive signage so you'll be able to name the bird species you'll spot flying over the waves.

Fishing

There are multiple opportunities for some great fishing when you go to take a look at the Rocks and Islands Wilderness. Cast a line from the beach anywhere along the Lost Coast and you could reel in some rock cod, snapper or even a halibut.

While launching your own boat from the shores in the King Range NCA isn't a viable option, if you want to try your hand at some sea fishing there are private charters available from Shelter Cove. Anyone undertaking spearfishing or crabbing along the coastline should be aware of the tidal patterns as these can on occasion prove to be dangerous.

Sea Kayaking

The Rocks and Islands Wilderness is a magnificent place to go sea kayaking, though not one for the inexperienced. You'll need to carry your kayak from your campground down to the shore then be prepared to deal with what can often be a strong swell as you enter the water and handle the surf when you're ready to go ashore. Weather conditions on the ocean can be changeable so you'll need to be prepared for fog rolling in or anything else the elements decide to throw at you. Hopefully, the dramatic scenery and wildlife will be reward enough for your efforts.

Wildlife Viewing

Whether you head out to the Rocks and Islands Wilderness by kayak, on a boat tour or view it from the shore, you'll be amazed at the quantity and variety of wildlife you'll see. Cast your eyes seawards and you'll spot myriad species of seabirds swooping in to land on the rocky pinnacles where they build their nests.

Keep an eye on the waves themselves and you'll see seals and otters searching for their next fishy dinner plus, if you're there at the right time of year, enormous grey whales floating by on their way to warmer waters.

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