Humboldt Coast

The Best Northern California Beaches
Along the Rugged Humboldt Coast

The Humboldt Coast is full of surprises. These Northern California beaches are wild, scenic and sometimes even lonely. You’ll find classic flat sandy beaches, and coastal bluffs with stunning views. There are secluded coves, coastal dunes, rivers, lagoons and an abundance of wildlife.

Collect driftwood or search for agates, jade and other beach treasures. Explore the sealife hiding in tidepools, or bring your horse for a ride on the beach.

Like most Northern California beaches, the beaches here are uncrowded, and if you're willing to go just a bit out of the way, you can have a beach to yourself. Bonfires are allowed on most Humboldt beaches, and that's a good thing, since it's on the cool side in this corner of California. You'll want to dress in layers, so you'll be prepared whether things warm up or cool down.

The surf along the Humboldt coast is treacherous and cold. But not to worry, you can still go swimming in the area's rivers, lakes and lagoons.

Lost Coast Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata

South of Humboldt Bay, the coast gets more rugged. Highway 1 turns inland at this point, bypassing the dramatic King Range and avoiding the frequent landslides caused by high rainfall. This is the famous Lost Coast, an area of pristine coastal wilderness. It's a favorite among backpackers and hikers, and is home to rare black sand beaches.

The beaches are listed from north to south.

Gold Bluffs Beach

This 10 mile stretch of secluded Northern California beach is located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and surrounded by high bluffs. Roosevelt elk can be seen in the meadows behind the beach. This area of the Humboldt coast was mined for gold in the 1850's, hence the name.

There are 24 campsites for tents or RVs, with picnic tables and cupboards. There's parking, restrooms with flush toilets, running water, solar showers and firepits. The campsites have direct access to the beach. Hiking trails and fishing are available. There's a fee for camping.

Due to the narrow gravel access road, trailers and RVs cannot exceed 24 feet long or 8 feet wide.

Humboldt Lagoons

Freshwater Lagoon  Photo by Albert Wellman

You'll find long sandy beaches and gorgeous wetlands at these lagoons along the Humboldt coast. This is an excellent place for bird watching and fishing. It's also popular for beachcombing, boating, windsurfing, canoeing, hiking, whale-watching and agate hunting. Facilities in this area are minimal.

There are 4 Lagoons:

  • Freshwater Lagoon
  • Stone Lagoon
  • Dry Lagoon
  • Big Lagoon

Freshwater Lagoon is part of Redwood National Park. The Lagoon is stocked with trout, and there's a boat ramp at the north end. Facilities include a parking area and picnic tables.

Stone Lagoon, Dry Lagoon, and Big Lagoon are part of Humboldt Lagoons State Park and the adjacent Harry A Merlo State Recreation Area.

The Visitor Center is located at the north end of Stone Lagoon, where the day use area includes a picnic area and a boat launch. The park also offers 6 environmental and 6 boat-in campsites. Campsites include fire pits and chemical toilets.

Big Lagoon County Park is located at the south end of Big Lagoon. Facilities include a boat ramp, 25 tent sites, picnic tables, fire rings and flush toilets. Kayak rentals and instructions are available seasonally from Kayak Zak. Beach fires are allowed here.

Big Lagoon is a noted fishing spot for cutthroat trout, and the shallow waters here are calm enough and warm enough for swimming. The sand spit that separates the lagoon from the ocean is a prime beachcombing location

Agate Beach at Patrick's Point

This beach, located in Patrick's Point State Park, is, as the name implies, a great place to search for agates and jade. But you'll also find driftwood and tidepools to explore. There are 6 miles of hiking trails. Trails along the bluffs provide a good place to watch whales, sea lions, or the sunset.

Park facilities include parking, restrooms, 125 campsites, wheelchair-accessible showers, firepits, 16 picnic sites and fishing. Some of trails and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Camping and day-use fees.

Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse Photo by Jack Hopkins, Humboldt County CVB,

One of the prettiest spots along the Humboldt coast, this small, sandy beach is tucked into a secluded cove. Offshore, Flatiron Rock provides a haven for seabirds. The trail to the beach is a half mile and drops 120 feet. There's parking, restrooms with running water, an outdoor shower, a picnic area with tables and firepits, and hiking trails. You can enjoy stunning views on the bluffs above the beach.

For more information see Trinidad State Beach.

Luffenholtz Beach and County Park

This dramatic pocket beach has outstanding views and great tidepools. It's located on Scenic Drive south of Trinidad on the Humboldt coast. A steep stairway leads down to the beach. There's parking, restrooms with flush toilets, firepits, and hiking trails. Beach fires are permitted. Dogs are allowed. Operated by Humboldt County Parks.

Moonstone Beach

Photo by Jack Hopkins, Humboldt County CVB,

This broad, sandy beach is very popular. It boasts tidepools and sea caves. You can go boating and swimming at Little River, or go horseback riding on the beach. Surfing, sea kayaking, boogie boarding and just walking along the beach are also popular.

There's parking and portable toilets. Dogs are allowed on the beach unleashed, if they're under the complete control of the owner. Located south of Trinidad; take Highway 101 to Scenic Drive to Moonstone Beach Road. Operated by Humboldt County Parks.

Little River State Beach

Little River State Beach features low dunes and a stretch of broad sandy beach. Swimming, hiking, surfing and fishing are popular activities. There are no facilities, but the adjacent Clam Beach County Park has modest facilities. Little River borders the beach on the north.

Located 5 miles south of Trinidad, just off Highway 101

Clam Beach County Park

Clam Beach Photo by Beti Trauth, Humboldt County CVB,

This is one of the largest and finest beaches along the Humboldt Coast, and one of the few California beaches that offer camping right on the beach. Enjoy a beach fire, horseback riding, beachcombing, clamming, fishing and surfing.

There's parking, vault toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, and 12 tent sites and 15 RV spaces. Dogs and horses are allowed. Located between Little River and Mad River on Clam Beach Drive off of Highway 101. Operated by Humboldt County Parks.

Mad River Beach

This beautiful Northern California beach is backed by coastal dunes. There's a boat ramp into the Mad River, for small boats, canoes, and kayaks. Fishing, picnicking, and beachcombing are popular activities.

Facilities include parking, restrooms with flush toilets, and picnic tables. Beach fires are allowed. Dogs and horses are OK. This beach is popular with students from nearby Humboldt State University.

Located at the end of Mad River Road, west of Highway 101. Operated by Humboldt County Parks.

Humboldt Bay

ATV riding at Samoa Dunes Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata

You'll find ocean beaches and dunes along the Samoa Peninsula, which forms the north spit of Humboldt Bay. There are several different beaches and recreation areas here.

To explore the dunes, head to Manilla Dunes Recreation Area, where you'll find over 100 acres of beach and dune habitats. Enter the dunes through the Manila Community Center. Dogs are allowed on leash or under voice control. Horses are allowed on designated trails. Facilities include parking and restrooms.

Further south, Samoa Beach offers parking, fishing and sandy beach.

At the end of the peninsula, the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area is popular for riding off-road vehicles, hiking, picnicking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. This 300 acre day-use area is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Facilities include parking, wheelchair accessible restrooms and showers.

Friends of the Dunes offers an excellent free Humboldt Bay Beaches and Dunes Map in PDF format.

Centerville County Park and Beach

This beach is located at the northern edge of the Lost Coast, from the delta of the Eel River south to False Cape. There's a 9 mile stretch of sandy beach, but with riptides swimming is not a good idea.

You can take four wheel drive vehicles onto the beach, go horseback riding, fishing, or enjoy a beach fire. Dogs and horses are also allowed. This is a good spot for wildlife and bird watching, and for seeing migrating whales in April and May.

There's a large parking area, portable toilets (seasonal), firepits, and an equestrian trail. Located 5 miles west of the Victorian Village of Ferndale, on Centerville Road. Operated by Humboldt County Parks.

Mattole River Beach

This beach is part of the California Lost Coast Wilderness in the King Range National Conservation Area operated by the BLM. It's located at the northern trailhead of the Lost Coast Trail, at the mouth of the Mattole River. Birds, harbor seals, sea lions and migrating whales can often be spotted here, and there are tidepools to explore.

There are 14 tent/trailer campsites nestled in the sand dunes, with picnic tables, running water, barbeque grills, and vault toilets. Located at the end of Lighthouse Road, 5 miles west of Petrolia.

Black Sands Beach

Black Sands Beach on the Lost Coast Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata

This wild and scenic beach on Northern California's Lost Coast is absolutely stunning. The black sand is a unique feature of this section of the Humboldt Coast. In fact, such beaches are found only in a few areas of the world.

There's about 9 miles of beach, accessible from Beach Drive north of Shelter Cove. There are two parking areas, one of which is wheel-chair accessible. Restrooms, a drinking fountain, and picnic tables are available. Hiking, picnicking and surfing are the primary activities.

The beach is part of King Range National Conservation Area and is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It's the southern terminus of the Lost Coast Trail, which ends in the north at Mattole River Beach.

More Information

Map of Humboldt Coast and Northern California Beaches | Del Norte County Beaches 

Mendocino County Beaches | Sonoma County Beaches | Northern California Visitor Resources

Virtual Guidebooks provides panoramic views of many places along the Northern California Coast.

Humboldt County Parks provides specific information about their beaches and parks.