The Lost Coast of California

The Lost Coast of California

Between Ferndale (to the north) and Rockport (to the south) along California’s Pacific coast there’s basically nothing. No real towns, no housing developments, no reality TV stars, hardly any roads even. Sure, there are things marked as roads on the map, but they’re just paved strips of pavement in reality. They’ve been washed out and earthquaked and patched too many times to be anywhere close to smooth. We’ve been on dirt roads that were smoother.

There are reasons for this, of course. Geologic reasons. Geographic reasons. It’s hilly and rough and prone to earthquakes. It’s a challenging environment, slightly inhospitable.

But it’s wonderful. There’s nothing. Nothing at all. In the local newspaper (there is a newspaper), there’s a real estate listing for 190 acres. The asking price is $250,000. It’s been logged, but that’s a lot of land. Single acres sell for about that much in Napa.

Most of the land is dedicated to grazing. Cows eat beach-side or on a hill with a view of the Pacific. It’s a good life for a cow.

If we were to rank great places to camp along the coast of California, number one would be Jalama and number two would be the Mattole Beach Campground in the middle of the Lost Coast and near the northern tip of King Range National Conservation Area. There are no burgers at Mattole Beach, but the camping is just $8 a night to camp on the beach (it’s on BLM land). Amazing. California State Parks charge between $35 and $60.

If you plan to camp here, get a site out of the wind. Ours was blocked by a few skyscraper-height pieces of driftwood. And know that you can get beer nearby in Petrolia.

On the way in, take the slightly rougher (and longer) road out of Ferndale, because Ferndale is beautiful. Every building in town is a vintage Victorian antique. Rumor is the pizza place in town is good too.

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But honestly, the roads … they’re terrible. I broke down and asked Lisa to shift to the middle, please. The loose, broken, sharp shoulder was a bit too close to my side. Thankfully, there was fog, and we weren’t distracted (dangerously) by the views until we arrived at the coast.