The rugged wilderness that once characterized the entire Mendocino Coast can still be explored and enjoyed in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Since there are no main highways near the coast in this vicinity, the area has come to be called the "Lost Coast."
History of the Area
For thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived, the Sinkyone Indians lived in this part of the coast. They occupied permanent villages alongside streams and rivers, and moved out in family groups to hunt and forage in the hills during the summer. They spent time along the coast fishing, gathering seaweed and shellfish, and hunting seals and sea lions, and harvesting the occasional dead whale that had washed on shore. Fish were an important source of food during the winter. All kinds of fish were caught, but the seasonal salmon run was especially important.
Most park visitors today assume that human beings have had little impact on this area. But every trail, road, or flat spot has been modified by human activity. Game trails were turned into pathways for pack mules loaded with tanbark for the tanneries of San Francisco. Roads were carved and graded for lumbering operations. Open areas and marine terraces were farmed and used to pasture sheep and cattle. Occasionally, what appears to be a wagon road or a modern jeep trail is actually an abandoned railroad right-of-way.
Logging operations continued until well into the 20th century and wood products of various kinds were shipped to market from Usal, Needle Rock, Anderson?s Landing, Northport and Bear Harbor/Morgan?s Rock. Northport was not much of a port, but lumber schooners were able to take on their cargoes by means of a "wire chute," - a cable and block system that could run wood from the bluff to waiting schooners. Built in 1875, the Northport "chute" was one of the first of its kind on the coast.
To Jones Beach is 2 miles round trip; to Whale Gulch is 4.5 miles round tripThe land we now call Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, located about 225 miles north of San Francisco, has long been recognized as something special. During the late 1960s, the great Catholic theologian Thomas Merton believed that the Needle Rock area would be an ideal place for a life of prayer and contemplation, and talked of establishing a monastic community there.
The state park, along with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management?s King Range National Conservation Area to the north, comprise California?s Lost Coast, 60 miles of wild shoreline located in northern Mendocino and southern Humboldt counties. One reason the coast is ?lost? is because no highways cross it. So rugged is this country, highway engineers were forced to route Highway 1 many miles inland from this coast?and the region has remained sparsely settled and unspoiled. It?s grand vistas and varied terrain? dense forests, prairies, coastal bluffs, beaches?reward the hardy explorer.
The sea is an overwhelming presence here, and its rhythmic sounds provide a thunderous background for a walk along land?s end. The sky is ﬁlled with gulls and pelicans, sea lions and harbor seals gather at Little Jackass Cove, and the California gray whale migration passes near shore during winter and early spring.A herd of Roosevelt elk roams the park. These magniﬁcent creatures were once common here and in the King Range, but were exterminated in the last century. The Roosevelt elk that lucky visitors see today are ?extras? relocated from Prairie Creek State Park.
Lost Coast Trail travels the length of Sinkyone State Park north through King Range National Conservation Area. The sixty mile trail would make an ideal week-long backpacking adventure. The portion of the Lost Coast Trail detailed here explores the northernmost, and most easily accessible, portion of the state park. It?s a relatively easy introduction to a challenging trail.
Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101, take either the Garberville or Redway exit and proceed to ?downtown? Redway, located 3 miles north of Garberville on Business 101. Turn west on Briceland Road. After 12 miles of travel, fork left to Whitethorn. A mile or so past the hamlet of Whitethorn (don?t blink or you?ll miss it), the pavement ends, and you continue on a potholed dirt/mud road for 3.5 miles to a junction called Four Corners. Leftward is Usal Road, rightward is a road climbing into the King Range National Conservation Area. Proceed straight ahead 3.5 miles to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Visitor Center.
The park road is steep, winding, and only one lane wide. Maps and information are available at the visitor center.
North end of wilderness - (Needle Rock): 36 miles southwest of Garberville/Redway on Briceland Road. Take Briceland Road west from Redway. Briceland Road becomes Mendocino County Road 435. The last 3.5 miles are unpaved, steep, & narrow.
South end of wilderness - (Usal Beach): Approximately one hour north of Ft Bragg on PCH or 15 miles west of Leggett on PCH from Highway 101. Look for mile marker 90.88 on PCH. Turn north for approximately 6 miles onto unpaved, steep, narrow road.
ROADS MAY BE IMPASSABLE IN WET WEATHER. RV'S & TRAILERS NOT RECOMMENDED.