Backpacking California's Lost Coast

Trip Length5 Days
Group Size4-10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,999 for REI Members
$2,199 for non-members
DeparturesApr 2024-Sep 2024

Backpack from Mattole Trailhead to Black Sands Beach, covering 25 miles in four days.

The Lost Coast is a remote stretch of the California coastline so rugged that it forced the Coast Highway further inland. With no road or cell phone signal for miles, this rare stretch of paradise is a must-do for the backpacker looking for a truly off the beaten path experience.

Backpacking south with the wind at our backs, we watch for sea lions, explore tide pools, and enjoy a colorful bounty of wildflowers. Expect to backpack through sand, over rock cobbles, and across streams—with the occasional stretch of smooth hiking trail. Though the terrain can be challenging, the rewards make it well worth the effort. We enjoy views of towering mountains, crystal clear cascading rivers, endless views of the Pacific Ocean and a diverse array of extraordinary wildlife. Our guides handle the details expertly—getting us to the trailhead, teaching us about the history of the landscape and preparing fantastic backcountry meals—leaving us free to fully focus on enjoying this incredible backpacking adventure.

Our guides lead us to incredible campsites along our 25-mile trek down the coast.

Trip Highlights

  • Take a bucket-list worthy trip through beautiful country over challenging terrain
  • Backpack 25 miles of pristine California coastline
  • Explore the King Range National Conservation Area
  • Enjoy gorgeous and remote backcountry campsites
  • Follow expert guides on this all-inclusive backpacking adventure


This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. Trip members should be capable of carrying a full backpack for up to 8 miles per day (up to 6 hours per day). Your backpack will weigh 35–40 pounds, which includes 5–10 pounds of group gear. The terrain can be rugged and may require some rock scrambling to negotiate. We will be crossing long stretches of soft sand and gravel with no established trail. There is a potential for stream crossings. This is not a beginning backpack trip. You must have experience backpacking and camping in remote locations.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; REI Half Dome 2 Plus tents; bear canisters; group water filter; stoves, fuel and cooking gear; meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 5; transfer from the meeting point in Santa Rosa to the trailhead on Day 1; transfer from the trail's end to the drop off point in Santa Rosa on Day 5; campsite and permit fees.


Backcountry campsites, 4 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Backpacking California's Lost Coast
Day 1

Meet in Santa Rosa and hike among the Redwoods en route to camp

Meet in Santa Rosa and hike among the Redwoods en route to camp. Our trip begins today at the Charles M.Schulz– Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa. Following an orientation and gear check, we load into our support van and drive to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home of some of the world’ s most majestic and ancient redwoods. We enjoy a short hike among these impressive trees, and then transfer to our campsite. Our guides prepare dinner and talk about the adventure ahead. Dinner included.

Transfers: 4 hours

Day 2

Visit a lighthouse and enjoy spectacular views of the California Coast

We load our backpacks with our personal gear and a portion of the group gear, then transfer a short distance to the trailhead. We begin our hike on sand, dotted with colorful ice plant and other coastal flora. The sand gives way to beach pebbles and bits of trail on solid ground as we near the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. Build in 1910 after a number of fatal shipwrecks off this rocky coast, this lighthouse is one of the few signs of civilization that we encounter on our adventure. Continuing our hike, we cross a rocky stretch to an overland detour around an impassable rock outcrop. Our short detour will afford us spectacular vistas up and down the rugged coastline, and we may see elephant seals. Tonight we camp at Cooskie Creek. All meals included.

Transfer: 30 minutes; Backpacking: 6.3 miles

Day 3

Backpack from Cooskie Creek to Big Creek

Our backpacking trip continue south across cobbles and coarse black sand until we reach a grassy terrace. We pay close attention to the timing of the tides since high tide renders stretches of coastline along our route impassable. Our goal is to reach Big Creek campsite by midafternoon, leaving us free to explore, comb the beach or find a quiet spot to kick back with a book and enjoy the solitude. All meals included.

Backpacking: 7 miles

Day 4

Backpack through lush scenery to Gitchell Creek

We hike through thickets of twisted pine trees and cross several creeks on our way to camp at Gitchell Creek. This stretch of coastline is particularly lush, with several springs pouring from the mountainside and onto the sand, sustaining hanging wildflower gardens bright with monkey flower and other water-loving plants. This stretch of coast is particularly dramatic, with mountains and forest dropping precipitously down to the beach. All meals included.

Backpacking: 7.6 miles

Day 5

Complete our journey to Black Sands Beach and return to Santa Rosa

Complete our journey to Black Sands Beach and return to Santa Rosa. We hike across wide sandy beaches to our van waiting at Black Sands Beach. We stop to purchase lunch en route(own expense). We expect to arrive in Santa Rosa late this afternoon, though this may vary depending on trail and road conditions, group pace and weather. Breakfast included.

Transfers: 3 hours; Backpacking: 3.7 miles

Itinerary map for Backpacking California's Lost Coast

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering.  To obtain maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you choose equipment for the trip.  Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

We provide

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Bear Canister
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Filter

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.