King Range National Conservation Area is all about the drama. With the spectacular scenery of the California Lost Coast as a backdrop the area attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. Hikers and campers come for the rugged beauty of the place, but there's also fishing, abalone diving, hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding and mushroom collecting. There are tide pools, magnificent black sand beaches, old growth forests and nearly vertical peaks.
Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata
The area offers a variety of scenery, Douglas fir forests, coastal chaparral, grasslands and meadows, and outstanding coastal views from ridges and bluffs.
King Range NCA includes 68,000 acres and 35 miles of coastline, from the mouth of the Mattole River in the north to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in the south.
Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata
The BLM maintains six campgrounds at King Range. They all provide tables, grills and toilets. Water is available at all the campgrounds except Horse Mountain and Honeydew Creek. Campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The only drive-in beach camping is at Mattole River, although a private campground is available in Shelter Cove.
Hiking on Northern California's Lost Coast Trail Photo courtesy of BLM/Arcata
King Range offers some of the most scenic wilderness camping in Northern California. There are 80 miles of hiking trails, including the Lost Coast Trail, which runs for 24 miles along the coastline, from Mattole River to Black Sands Beach, and then veers inland heading south into Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Water from coastal streams must be purified to be drinkable.
Inland trails can be quite strenuous, and water is scarce. Horses are allowed on all the trails, though some trails aren't suitable.
You'll need a free backcountry permit if you plan to spend one or more nights along the trail. The self-service permits are available at King Range trailheads. The trails are not well-marked, so be sure to bring a good trail guide or map.
Bears are a problem here, and bear resistant canisters are required.
Roosevelt Elk Photo courtesy of National Park Service
King Range National Conservation Area is teeming with wildlife. Along the seashore, seals and sea lions lounge about on the offshore rocks, and a variety of creatures can be found in tide pools. During the winter and spring whale watching season, California grey whales can be spotted passing by.
The mountains are home to blacktailed deer and black bears, and Roosevelt elk roam about the area from Chemise Mountain south into Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
The area is a delight for bird watchers, with nearly 300 species of birds, including bald eagles, brown pelicans, and Cooper's hawk.
Roads leading into King Range National Conservation Area are narrow, steep, and winding, but all the main roads are accessible by passenger cars, except during heavy winter rains. Some of the unimproved roads are more suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles. Check with the BLM for current road conditions.
More info from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM): King Range National Conservation Area. You can also download a PDF map from the BLM site.