King's Peak (aka King Peak or Kings Peak - see the Etymology section for more info), located on the coast of California about 75 miles south of Eureka, is the highest peak in the King Range and less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean. These mountains are the dominant feature of California's spectacular Lost Coast and are still being created by the tectonic action between the North American and Pacific plates. As such, they are severely folded and faulted from a geological perspective and receive some of the most rains along the Pacific Coast from October to April. These conditions caused the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH aka Route 1) to be diverted from the coast at which time this land became known as the "Lost Coast" and one of the most pristine parts of the California coast.
There are several ways to reach King's Peak, the shortest of which being a 2 mile class 1 Lightning Trail from the Lightning Trailhead at just over 2000 ft. This trail ascends the King Range Crest from the east side passing Maple Camp on it's way to the summit.
Most people, however, do not come to the Lost Coast to climb King's Peak, or hike along the King Crest Trail - they come to hike the Lost Coast Trail which follows the shore along both the King Range National Conservation Area (NCA) to the north and the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park to the south. The Lost Coast Trail along the King Range is much more spectacular as it is along the beach while the portion of the trail in the Sinkyone Wilderness is actually several hundred feet above the ocean. Hiking up to the King's Peak summit from the ocean will give you just over 4000 feet of relief ;-) If you choose to hike along the Lost Coast Trail, it is important to consider the tides as certain portions of the trail will become impassable during high tide. See the Lost Coast Trail Section below regarding hiking up King's Peak from the Lost Coast Trail.
POPULAR MAP: "Trails of the Lost Coast," Wilderness Press, ISBN: 0-89997-203-9 (available at most REI in California)
Lightning Trailhead: Take US-101 to the Gaberville/Redway exit and follow the signs for Shelter Cove (town along the coast) and the King Range National Conservation Area. It's about 22-miles from the US-101 to Shelter Cove, however along the way you will drive past the King Range (BLM) Headquarters. Stop here to get the latest information on the tides (if you plan on hiking along the beaches) and hunting seasons. After you pass the King Range HQ continue on Shelter Cove Road, turning north (right) on to the still-paved King Peak Road. Turn on to the gravel King Range Road which ends at the Lightning Trailhead.
Mouth of the Mattole Trailhead: This is the northern trailhead for the Lost Coast Trail. Take US-101 to the Ferndale exit and follow signs for Petrolia. One mail after Petrolia, turn right on Lighthouse Road. In five miles you will reach the Mattole Recreation Site. The total distance from US-101 is about 42 miles.
Black Sands Beach Trailhead: This is the southern trailhead for the King Range portion of the Lost Coast Trail. You can reach this trailhead by driving the Shelter Cove and turning north on Beach Road. See the Lightning Trailhead information on reach Shelter Cove (about 22 miles from US-101).
For all trailheads see the King Range NCA directions webpage which includes a map, distances, and estimated driving time.
No permits are required if you are on an "non-organized" trip. See the King Range NCA Permits Page if you have questions about whether your group qualifies or not. If your group is required to have a permit, both fee and non-fee permits are used depending on the status of your group.
Check with the King Range HQ (see Mountain Conditions Section) on when hunting season is open as you will either be able to hunt for your dinner, or need to be more careful while you are hiking.
Campfire and stove permit: See the King Range NCA Campfire Page regarding the mandatory permits needed for backcountry campfires and stove use.
When To Climb
The spring and autumn are the best times to hike if you want clear weather. During winter and spring it may be possible to see migrating California gray whales as well (best between late April to early May).
There are two camgrounds in the mountains: Maple Camp which is between King's Peak and the Lightning Trailhead and Miller Camp which is about 2-2.5 miles northeast of King's Peak along the King Crest Trail (just past the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail which goes down to the ocean).
Along the beach there are several undeveloped campgrounds, the closest ones to King's Peak being the mouthes of Big Flat Creek, Shipman Creek and Buck Creek.
See the King Range NCA Campgrounds Page for other campgrounds though I think the ones listed above are the most useful wrt King's Peak.
Bear alert: Bear canisters are now required for overnight trips. If you are caught without one, there's a $150 fine per person for non-compliance (Ref: Dragger). See the King Range NCA Hiking and Backpacking page for more info.
Weather, Tide and Earthquake Activity
|Weather Underground's Arcata, CA page provides a comprehensive weather report for the area including coastal weather reporting, alerts, a five-day forecast, hourly wind, temperature, humidity, UV forecasts, local and regional radar, satellite imagery, and marine forecasts. The "Conditions Nearby" section just below "Current Conditions" provides specific information from the Shelder Cove district. Any recent, local earthquake activity will also be shown on the page. Earthquakes are common on the North Coast, as for the rest of California. For recent earthquake activity see the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website.|
For tide activity, consult either of the following links for high and low tide information, times and regions:
climbwild for the weather and satellite info.
The Lost Coast Trail
The Lost Coast Trail is a spectacular coastal trail which runs along California's Lost Coast - the only place in California where you are free from the Pacific Coast Highway. The trail is composed of 4 sections: King Range (24.4 mi.), roads (3-4 mi.?), connector trail (6.4 mi. from Hidden Valley Trailhead to Whale Gulch, also in King Range NCA), and Sinkyone Wilderness (21.6 mi.).
King's Peak via the Lost Coast Trail: Hiking south from the the northern terminus at the Mouth of the Mattole River you will reach Big Flat in 15.9 miles at which time you can ascend the King Crest via the Rattlesnake Ridge trail to King's Peak (10.5 miles). Continuing south on the Lost Coast Trail you will reach mouth of Buck Creek in another 3.3 miles at which time it's possible to ascend the King Crest again, this time via the Buck Creek Trail, and reach the King's Peak summit in 9.5 miles. From Buck Creek it's another 5.2 miles to Black Sands Beach at the town of Shelter Cove.
Sea and Summit Loop: This approximately 24-mile loop hike beginning and ending at the Lightning Trailhead is possibly the shortest hike which involves both reaching the summit of King's Peak and hiking along the beach on the Lost Coast Trail. Going counter clock-wise, start at the Lightning Trailhead and head 2 miles southeast to King's Peak. After you have reached the summit backtrack about 0.25 miles to the King Crest Trail and take this northwest to reach the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail at which point it's 4.6 miles down to Big Flat at the Pacific Ocean. Hike south along the Lost Coast Trail for 3.3 miles to Buck Creek and then ascend the Buck Creek Trail and follow the King Crest Trail northwest reaching the Lightning Trailhead in about 8 miles. The following is a list of trails used for this hike:
Lightning Trailhead / Lightning Trail (SW) > King's Peak >
King Crest Trail (NW) > Rattlesnake Ridge Trail (SW) >
Big Flat > Lost Coast Trail (SE) > Buck Creek Trail (NE) >
King Crest Trail (NW) > Lightning Trail (NE) / Lightning Trailhead
This peak is known by various names including King Peak, Kings Peak and King's Peak. There does not appear to be a consensus so all the names have been listed on this page. The USGS lists the name of the peak as "King Peak", however, to remove ambiguity and risk of transcription errors due to grammatical mistakes, they removed all apostrophes from placenames so King's Peak or Kings' Peak could not be official USGS names. Here are some sources that use the different variations:
|King Peak||USGS list of peaks, BLM website, Wilderness Press map|
|Kings Peak||BLM website, Wilderness Press map, Hiking Northern California by Ron Adkison|
|King's Peak||Garberville Chamber of Commerce, Wilderness Press map|
To get the "real" name, or at least what was originally intended, some historical research may be needed such as referencing California Place Names by Gudde & Bright. If anyone has information regarding the etymology of this peak, please respond here.
On a side note, it seems like Kings Peak, Utah is also commonly referred to as King's Peak.
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