Help me find a Pacific coast trail

1:18 p.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

Hey y'all!

I've come to trailspace in hopes of tapping the vast wealth of knowledge of its users. I'm looking for a multiday trip along the Pacific coast at the end of August or beginning of September. Perhaps a nice 4-5 day trip, 8+ miles per day. We range from experienced to novice hikers, even though the novice guys were able to do 3500'+ elevation climb up to 9000 in one day in Idaho's Sawtooths without issue.

This time around, we are looking for a less than strenuous hike that would allow for great scenery. I've been looking into the Oregon or Washington coasts. The Shi Shi trail looks cool, but way too short.

We wouldn't mind a trail that takes us through wooded areas that eventually lead to the coast for a night, but something that would allow us to have clifftop views and beach access would be perfect.

I know this is vague, but we're coming from the gulf south, so our knowledge of the area is very limited. I've camped/hiked the  Olympic Rainforest for 5 day in the past, but that was mostly car camping.

So, have you any ideas?

I should add that somewhat easy access to a trailhead via shuttle would be nice, although one of the guys may drive to meet us from Idaho.

Thanks for any responses!

7:21 p.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
4,077 forum posts

All of the Coast in WA and OR is strenuous. It is wet, steep and rough. Maybe you could hike on the beach at Olympic NP.

1:08 a.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

It may be wet and rough, but is it significant elevation gain at an already high elevation? We would go late August. Less rain. We deal with wet and rough in Louisiana all the time. 

10:17 a.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
4,077 forum posts

Wet and cold instead of of wet and hot. Rough as in rocky, with tree roots covered in slippery stuff.  The Pacific Coast Trail in BC is the classic example. It has lots of steps, ladders and bridges.  You need a tide table to negotiate it. It is near sea level but has a lot of up and down.  It is hard to imagine if you live somewhere with flat topography.  The Coastlines of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are submerged, eroded and flat with a few exceptions up North. The Pacific Coastline is emerging and steep for the most part.

2:40 p.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
4,534 reviewer rep
6,037 forum posts

There are many trails in California. The California Coastal Trail basically follows the coast in Northern California. It is actually a network of trails that does extend into Oregon, and has parallel trails that are a bit inland, as well as the sections that are right on the beach.

Inland, the Pacific Crest Trail follows the Sierra and Cascades from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border for some 2000 miles. The John Muir Trail is also in the Sierra and in part is the same as the PCT, though with sections that depart from the PCT. The JMT is 220 miles long. The PCT and JMT include some significant climbs.

There are trails that loop close to the coast, and there are trails like the Skyline to the Sea that goes from Saratoga Gap on Skyline Drive at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains (which also happens to be the San Andreas Fault) to the beach about 30 miles away (some people falsely believe it is all downhill, but in fact there is an 800 foot elevation gain from Waterman Gap to where you enter Big Basin Redwoods State Park). You can add some more uphill (2100 ft) and distance by starting just outside the town of Saratoga. There are several designated campsites along the way, most in among the giant redwoods. Most people make it a leisurely trip of 3-4 days (although I and many others have done it as a day hike). The San Francisco Peninsula and the coast north and south of the Golden Gate has many wilderness parks with lots of land for backpacking, as does the Sierra and the Cascades.

Although I have lived in California for many decades, I have not even begun to cover a small fraction of the trails. There are a dozen (or more) of up-to-date books on the trails of California on which you could spend weeks in real wilderness.

4:09 p.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
640 reviewer rep
1,184 forum posts

I'd strongly consider the Lost Coast Trail (

It follows scenic coastal wilderness in Northern California. It can be done in 2-5 days and is moderate in difficulty.

5:35 p.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
4,534 reviewer rep
6,037 forum posts

Seth, I think I was told that the Lost Trail is or will be part of the California Coastal Trail, basically the farthest north section in California, once the California Coastal Trail is completed.

But then, I could be a bit mixed up, having only been on the Lost Trail once, plus only a couple parts of the California Coastal Trail. Since you are one of the Gurus of the trails, you can set me straight. I have spent a lot more time in Big Sur, since it is a lot closer to me.

Plus I spend much more time in the Sierra.

6:46 p.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
4,077 forum posts

There are plenty of trails on the Coast of California, but the end of August would be the wrong time to access most of them.

5:59 p.m. on June 28, 2016 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

Hey y'all! Thanks for all the responses. I work nights in an ICU, so I've been a tad busy. Those all look like great suggestions. Ppine, thanks for the info. We've been looking at the Oregon coast trail. Thoughts? 

Bill S and Seth, Cali always looks interesting. My friend lives in Sonoma and I've always wanted to hike somewhere, anywhere there. 

I lived in Seattle for 1.5 years, so I'm fairly familiar with what type of terrain and the moisture. I think we're just really looking for something different from Teton-esque hikes, and certainly different from the south. I've been through arkansas, Alabama, Georgia. 

I really appreciate the ideas. I'll do research, speak to the guys and get back!

April 9, 2020
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Transportation to Trailheads around Sequioa & King's Canyon Newer: Climber Science Program -Andes 2016
All forums: Older: 9 hours hiking backpack size? Newer: Wonderland Trail - Mt Rainier Part 1