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KIng'S  PEAK         4088 ft./  1246 m

Location: The Lost Coast of California, USA
40.15690°N  /  124.1231°W


King's Peak and the King Range - Overview
Approach to the Lightning Trailhead
Red Tape, Fees and Legalese in the King Range
Weather and Tide Activity on the North Coast
Camping on the Lost Coast
Essential Gear for Climbing the Lightning Trail
Mountain Conditions
King's Peak - Acknowledgements and Photo Credits
King's Peak and the King Range

King's Peak
King's Peak, at 4088 ft. is the highest summit in a long series of heavily forested mountains making up the King Range. Its summit is a stone's throw away from the King's Crest Trail. From its tiny summit or the small wooden observation deck about six feet below, the view of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding range of lush, mountainous rainforest of the Lost Coast borders on sensory overload. For a mild 2 or 3 hour hike, King's Peak offers a view unlikely to be matched anywhere for the energy expended. A relatively good trail presents good access to the top, using many switchbacks to gain elevation.

King's Peak is found on the north coast of California, is the highest peak in the King Range and its summit , while close to the ocean, often experiences snow at higher elevations during winter rains. The King Range is still being created by the tectonic action between the North American and Pacific plates. This range receives some of the most rainfall along the Pacific Coast - up to 200 inches a year between rain and fog. The difficulty of engineering a highway through this area has contributed to the inaccesibility of the Lost Coast. It is one of the most pristine and little-known areas of the California coast.

The shortest way to reach King's Peak is a 2.5 mile class 1 climb on the Lightning Trail from the Lightning Trailhead at just over 2000 ft. The Lightning Trail climbs the King Range Crest from the east side as it passes Maple Camp near the summit, which is the last possible location for year-round water and is located within about a half hour from the summit.

King Range National Conservation Area
The King Range National Conservation Area was established in 1970, when Congress created the protected area and put it in public hands under the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It was the first National Conservation area to be designated as such. It is located about 230 miles north of San Francisco and 60 miles south of Eureka, California. The area covers close to 60,000 acres and extends along 35 miles of the coastline. It is administered by the BLM under the Arcata Field Office.

The King Range
The King Range is a dramatic meeting of land and sea along the California coast. Mountains thrust directly out of the surf, and the the summit of King's Peak, the highest point at 4,088 feet is less than three miles from the ocean. The King Range offers stunning ocean views and a rare backcountry experience on the U.S. coastline. The 35 miles of remote coastline between the mouth of the Mattole River and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is known as California's "Lost Coast." It encompasses the 24.4 mile Lost Coast Trail over ocean beach terrain, varying from beautiful black sand beaches, rocky tidepools teeming with marine life, boulder, talus and driftwood log-strewn obstacles, impassable sections (during high tide) with surf pounding over thin strips of beach into the high cliffs that form the lower flanks of the King Range mountains, hundreds of species of sea birds, and even the odd hermit's cabin, if you look closely enough.
 The final summit pyramid of King's Peak, seen from the crest of the Lightning Trail and the King's Crest Trail
There are many little gravel back roads in the area....beware. Many just keep getting smaller, becoming impassable higher up. Early winter rains can render many of the King Range's roads impassable or in poor condition. From November to May is generally a very wet, cold and damp time of the year here, so this hike is best undertaken between late May to September. Avoid the "Pot Wars" that the area has been reputed for, and stay away from any back roads that are not your correct choice of access, or any strange-looking gentlemen driving ATV vehicles. People have inquired if it would be possible to ride a mountain bike down the Lost Coast Trail; the answer is a resounding 'no', unless you want to carry it most of the way.

The King Range is perhaps the wettest mountain range in North America, with the village of Honeydew recording one hundred inches of precipitation a year; half of that can be from fog. Very wet years can see two hundred inches of rain, accompanied by mudslides and impassable mountain roads. Many creeks flow out of the green canyons directly into the ocean. The shorelines of the Lost Coast consist of beaches in many areas, but high rainfall, steep cliff faces and loose slopes have created many talus fields and rubble piles along the shore which are very difficult to move across, especially at high tide, when it can become impossible. Several trails lead to the summit of King's Peak, and a couple lead to the summit of Chemise Mountain, but they are mainly trail hiking ascents, with almost no signage, can be overgrown in places, and bushwhacking in these ravines and ridges is difficult to impossible in places, so climbing opportunities are rather limited on the coastal peaks. However, most people do not come here to climb, but to hike along the Lost Coast instead.
                                  Here is the summit view from King's Peak on a perfect day
Mountains of the King's Range
The mountains of the King's Range National Conservation area include King's Peak, Cooksie Mountain, Telegraph Peak, North Slide Peak, Shubrick Peak, Hadley Peak, Queen's Peak, Chemise Mountain and Fire Hill as well as a variety of long ridges, cliffs, gullies and canyons. An excellent map of the area including trails, roads, topographics, mountains, and campgrounds is available from the Wilderness Press map and guide, "Trails of the Lost Coast - A Recreation Guide to King Range National Conservation Area". (ISBN number 0-89997-203-9, available at REI stores). Their website is

The Lost Coast
The Lost Coast of California is the wildest and most remote stretch of coastline in the western United States, and possibly even in the entire country. Once having visited it, you will never forget it. The rugged canyons, lush green walls and their clean-running streams, emptying into the Pacific; the deep-green valleys, forested in huge redwood trees; the peaks dropping into the ocean's pounding surf; the rocky shorelines; the marine life, sights, smells and sounds all combine to create the unique Lost Coast of California. On a warm summer day, this beautiful stretch of coastline is an idyllic place to hike, camp, retreat, or just lie down and forget what is going on in the rest of the world. Keep in mind that rattlesnakes are known to inhabit this area, even on the beaches. Keep away from clusters of driftwood and rockpiles which are well back from the ocean in sunny spots.
                          The view of King's Peak from the lower slopes on the Lightning Trailhead
Along the way, one can easily spot California gray whales as they surface for air in the shallows just beyond reach of the surf, or see and hear the barking of groups of sea lions or seals as they frolic on the surface in the waves, or in shoreline rookeries. Approach a band of two hundred seals that immediately all spill off their comfortable rocks into the tidepools where they bob in unison with the swell, all eyes watching you and the big alpha male on the shoreline who refuses to leave and lunges around, roaring and hissing. Wrecked and partially sunken fishing trawlers, an old Caterpiller diesel engine, parts torn from lost ships, and lost commercial fishing equipment bear witness to the ferocity of storms along this coastline, particularly in the region of Punta Gorda, a treacherous, reef-strewn sailors' hell, where many sailors, explorers and travellers met their destiny in the past during violent storms with high seas and destructive winds.

Extremely steep, mountainous and rocky terrain forced the coastal highway route, State Highway 1, about 30 miles inland from the King Range. This obstacle to transportation and settlement remains today as California's "Lost Coast." The 16-mile King Crest Trail System provides foot and horse access along the main coastal ridge north of Shelter Cove. There are three trailheads-one at the end of the Saddle Mountain Road, one midway along the Smith-Etter Road, and one near the end of the King Range Road.
                                King's Peak, seen from the beach at Big Flat on the Lost Coast
Approach to the Lightning Trailhead

To reach the Lightning Trailhead at King's Peak from Highway 101, turn off the 101 at Garberville, onto Briceland Road, a small ashphalt road which winds its way through rainforest-covered mountains past Briceland and finally arriving at the little oceanside town of Shelter Cove. The road is paved, but winding and with dense forest hiding curves and deep ravines, great care must be taken while driving in, as evidenced by several sad but beautiful memorials along the roadside to lost loved ones who fell victim to tragic accidents.

This road is packed with large redwood trees right at the edge of the ashphalt, steep hills, hairpin turns and huge exposed ridges close to roadside, and to lose control of a vehicle and leave the road could easily result in a fatality. It takes about forty-five minutes to reach the King's Peak Road from Shelter Cove Road, starting at the turnoff at Garberville.

From the King's Peak Road turnoff on Shelter Cove Road, you will turn north (right) for 16 miles. Passing turnoffs for Tolkan, Horse Mountain and Saddle Mountain Campgrounds, after about nine miles you will reach a fork in the road. The right fork goes to Honeydew. Take the left fork to get to the Lightning Trailhead. The signed trailhead is at the end of this road, and the King's Peak massif can be seen from the trailhead to the north.

For those without a four-wheel-drive truck, or at least a nimble vehicle with good clearance, this could be an adventurous trip in. There are six stream crossngs to be negotiated, as well as several steeply-rutted braids near streams. In February of 2006, after an unusually long dry spell, the road was dry if quite rough,with some rockfall to negotiate; and a small car likely could not have made it in during winter rains.
          Looking northeast to Mt. Shasta and Shastina, which was clearly visible to the naked eye this day
Red Tape, Fees and Legalese in the King Range

Permits must be obtained from the BLM in order to use camp stoves or to have camp fires along this trail. Buy any required permits at the BLM office in Whitethorn near the south trailhead, or at the Petrolia General Store near the north trailhead. No hiking permits are required for recreation users. Bear Canisters: If you are backpacking or camping overnight, bear canisters are required.
Weather and Tide Activity on the North Coast

Weather, Tide and Earthquake Activity on the North Coast of California
Click on the box to the left for a complete comprehensive report by the Weather Underground with regards to coastal weather reporting, alerts, a five-day forecast, hourly wind, temperature, humidity, UV forecasts, local and regional radar, satellite imagery, and marine forecasts. Scroll down to "Conditions Nearby" for weather forecasts and reports for the Shelter Cove district. The site also has complete earthquake activity reporting and mapping. Earthquakes are common on the North Coast, as for the rest of California. For tide activity, consult either of the following links for high and low tide information, times and regions:
  • Tide Tables for Shelter Cove by Mobile Geographics
  • More 2006 Tide Tables for Shelter Cove by NOAA / NOS CO-OPS

  • GOES Western US SECTOR Infrared Image
    Color enhanced imagery is a method meteorologists use to aid them with satellite interpretation. The colors enable a meteorologist to easily and quickly see features which are of special interest to them. Usually they look for high clouds or areas with a large amount of water vapor.

    In an infrared (IR) image cold clouds are high clouds, so the colors typically highlight the colder regions. In a water vapor image, white areas indicate moisture and dark areas indicate little or no moisture, so the colors typically highlight areas with large amounts of moisture. Click on the map at left for more information.

    * Linked from the NOAA GOES website - http://www,
    Camping on the Lost Coast

    Off U.S. Highway 101 at Garberville or Redway, west 16.5 miles on Briceland/Shelter Cove Road. 60,000-acre area. Ocean and beach to the mountains. Elevations to 2200 feet (roads), 4088 feet (King Peak). Steep, winding, narrow dirt roads; some roads impassable during wet weather. Large trailers and RV's not recommended. Hunting, hiking, and surf fishing (refer to California Dept. of Fish and Game for specific regulations). Open all year, no reservations. Facilities are kept to a minimum in order to preserve the area's rustic and semi-primitive qualities. Fresh water can be had from numerous creeks early in the season, some of these will dry up as the summer goes by. All water taken from creeks should be treated.

    • Mattole Campground
      Location: North end of King Range at the beach. U.S. 101 at Garberville, South Fork/Honeydew, or Ferndale exits. Follow signs toward Petrolia, turn on Lighthouse Road to ocean. Facilities: 14 tent/trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, no hookups or potable water. Lost Coast Trailhead and parking area. No OHV access. Use Fee: Camping - $5.00

    • Honeydew Creek Campground
      Location: U.S. 101 at South/Fork Honeydew exit. Follow signs to Honeydew, turn south onto Wilder Ridge Road toward Ettersburg for 1 mile. Facilities: 5 tent/trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets. No water (campground is near creek; treat water before drinking), no hookups. Wheelchair accessible. Use Fee: Camping - $5.00

    • Horse Mountain Campground
      Location: U.S. 101 to Redway, west 22 miles on Briceland/Shelter Cove Road, then 6.5 miles north on King Peak Road. Facilities: 9 tent/trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets. No water. No hookups. Use Fee: Camping - $5.00; day use $1.00

    • Tolkan Campground
      Location: U.S. 101 to Redway, west 22 miles on Briceland/Shelter Cove Road, then 3.5 miles north on King Peak Road. Facilities: 5 trailer/4 tent campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets. No water. No hookups. Wheelchair accessible. Use Fee: Camping - $8.00; day use $1.00

    • Nadelos Campground
      Location: U.S. 101 to Redway, west 22 miles on Briceland/Shelter Cove Road, south 1.5 miles on Chemise Mountain Road. Facilities: 8 tent campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets. No hookups. Wheelchair accessible. Chemise Mtn. Trailhead. Entire campground may be reserved for overnight group use for $85 per night. Minimum number of people in group is 20, and maximum group number is 60. All applications and fees must be received 30 days prior to the first use day. To request a permit application please call the BLM King Range Office at 707-986-5400. Use Fee: Camping - $8.00; day use $1.00

    • Wailaki Campground
      Location: U.S. 101 to Redway, west 22 miles on Briceland/Shelter Cove Road, south 2 miles on Chemise Mountain Road. Facilities: 13 tent/trailer campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets. No hookups. Wheelchair accessible. Chemise Mtn. Trailhead. Use Fee: Camping - $8.00; day use $1.00
    Directions: Take the Briceland/Shelter Cove Road from Redway (adjacent to Garberville) to access Shelter Cove and many campgrounds. To access the north end of the King Range, take the Mattole Road exit from Highway 101 (near Weott) and follow through Honeydew and Petrolia, or join the Mattole Road from the other end at Ferndale.

    Camping is permitted at the Lightning Trailhead. No water source was visible. Fresh water is obtainable year-round at Maple Camp, near the summit of King's Peak. A large adult black bear was spotted near the trailhead on the lower slopes of King's Peak.
                                      The view on the "other" side of the mountain is worth the effort   
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