overland

Lost Coast - 6/20/22-6/23/22

Seems like Lost Coast was very popular in June. Thought I'd share my experience as well.

This was my very first overlanding trip and Lost Coast looked like an awesome first trip and relatively easy from a technical perspective. I took my daughters with me. I was in my 05 GMC Yukon and my friend came along in an awesome 2wd Vanagon (which is also why we picked Lost Coast).

We drove up from Fresno and met up in Laytonville. We then took the 1 over to the Usal Rd turnoff.

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It’s a pretty short drive from that turnoff to the campsite, we made it to Usal Campground around 4-5 pm on a Monday and there was plenty of room to camp. Usal campground is really nice, it’s awesome to be on the beach but it did get really windy while we were there. Be warned though, there is 1 vault toilet and that's being generous.

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The next morning we headed north with the plan of following the OTG route and going to Needle Rock. But, I have to say, Usal road was pretty darn rough and it was slow going. Much slower than I thought it would be and there was quite a bit of distance to travel. So we skipped Needle Rock and made our way to Shelter Cove.


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Shelter Cove is absolutely beautiful. We stopped there for a late lunch. There is an campground at Shelter Cove and it’s $40 for a tent site that you can accommodate a vehicle. Could be an optional spot to camp for folks depending on how their day is going.

From there we made our north but we realized there was no way we’d make it all the way to Mattole beach. So we stopped at AM Way Campground. AM Way was pretty busy for a Tuesday but we had no trouble getting a spot. The Campground is really nice, and there are showers so bring along some quarters.

Wednesday morning we made our to Mattole Road. The drive east is fine, but the best part is pulling into the Albee campground area. The scenery transitions from the typical gold hillsides and trees to a stunning, dark canopy of beautiful redwood trees. As soon as we drove into the canopy we had to stop and take some pictures. We took a short hike at the Big Trees Day Use Area.

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We then we jumped on the 101 and made our way up the Avenue of the Giants.


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We ended our trip by camping at Hidden Springs Campground. This campground also has showers and the ranger at the pay station swapped out a $5 bill for quarters for us.

We couldn’t do the entire route but overall we covered a lot of ground and had a great time. My girls were nervous to go “off-road” but they ended up enjoying that part.

Next time I think I’ll plan on spreading out the trip over more days. Driving off road is intense, it required all of my focus to navigate the ruts, divots, and branches. It was taxing to drive that way even for just a few hours, and all of that was in 2wd!

Overall, this was a great first trip and great trip overall. The area is beautiful, and even the drive back home on the 101 had great scenery.

Signing up for OTG was well worth it. I used Gaia GPS and followed Ben's route and discovery points and having a plan and route to follow takes a lot of the stress out of taking a trip like this.
 

OTG Ben

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Thank you for posting-- awesome photos! Hopefully you'll be getting back out on the trail for future trips published on OTG.

Small note about Usal Beach. CA State Parks manages Usal, and their regs prohibit driving any vehicle onto the beach/sand. I totally get it, very few folks heed this rule, but the rangers are not happy about it. Please spread the word if you do make it back out that way and be sure to read the details on our route guides. We try to include as much of this info as possible.
 

aarencob-738

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So, to be clear, where we parked on Usal Beach is not allowed?

It’s really tough to know that, there aren’t any signs anywhere to indicate one way or the other. Not that it makes it okay, but there were tons of other vehicles in that same sand area.
 

CAchief

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I think I recognize the area you camped at USAL It's more of an overflow parking spot rather than the sandy beach. I guess by the letter of the law you're not supposed to camp there. You are correct, signage is lacking at USAL.

If you look at this (~5:55) drone shot on his video guide, you'll see a group camped further down the sandy beach, this is a much more egregious disregard of this rule.

I've camped at USAL three times. In 2009 and 2015 we camped within the Alder trees near the beach and had good conditions both times with minimal wind. In 2021 it was a clear, windy day and our family decided to setup in the redwoods tucked within the mountainside and I actually preferred this location. The kids could play in the creek and I could let the dog roam a bit without vehicle traffic or raucous neighbors to worry about. At night, i could hear the wind whipping through the redwoods on the ridge but it was completely calm at our site. Much more peaceful.

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CAchief

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Where are the redwoods at in relation to the beach? It's been years since I last went and we arrived at night.
There's a turn off directly past the beach that'll take you to a couple campsites. I think it's actually the proper USAL campground, complete with picnic tables and fire rings.

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aarencob-738

Trail Grom
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Dec 11, 2021
Messages
5
I think I recognize the area you camped at USAL It's more of an overflow parking spot rather than the sandy beach. I guess by the letter of the law you're not supposed to camp there. You are correct, signage is lacking at USAL.

If you look at this (~5:55) drone shot on his video guide, you'll see a group camped further down the sandy beach, this is a much more egregious disregard of this rule.

I've camped at USAL three times. In 2009 and 2015 we camped within the Alder trees near the beach and had good conditions both times with minimal wind. In 2021 it was a clear, windy day and our family decided to setup in the redwoods tucked within the mountainside and I actually preferred this location. The kids could play in the creek and I could let the dog roam a bit without vehicle traffic or raucous neighbors to worry about. At night, i could hear the wind whipping through the redwoods on the ridge but it was completely calm at our site. Much more peaceful.

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Ah, got it, yeah we saw a bunch of tire tracks there and no signs, so we thought it would be okay to camp there. Thanks for the clarification.
 

OTG Ben

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@aarencob-738

It can be confusing for a first timer, and I did the same thing the first time I visited Usal! From my understanding, anytime state parks tries to put up signs or implement a barricade, they're torn down/ripped out shortly thereafter. One of the benefits of camping off the beach, is that you're out of the wind ;)
 
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