Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
Southern portion of the Lost Coast
HIGHLIGHTS: 7,500-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park features twisted and windswept redwoods ranging from 1 to 10 feet in diameter. About 225 miles north of San Francisco, the rugged King Range forces the highway inland, leaving a 60-mile stretch of wilderness called the Lost Coast. The northern part of the Lost Coast lies in the King Range National Conservation Area. The southern part is in 7,500-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Save the Redwoods League helped protect almost two-thirds of the Sinkyone.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, camping, horseback riding, backpacking, camping.
VISITOR CENTER: At the north end of the park (just off Briceland Road) is the Needle Rock Visitor Center. In an historic ranch house, this facility lives up to its Lost Coast reputation: the road is unpaved for the last 3.5 miles, there's no phone, cell-phone reception is poor, and it's open only when staffing is available.
CAMPGROUNDS: People driving in from the south on Usal Road (off Highway 1) can stay at Usal Campground. Camps for backpackers are, from south to north, at Anderson (2 sites), Little Jackass Creek (3), Wheeler (7), Bear Harbor (3), Railroad (2), Orchard (3) and Jones Beach (3). There are also two walk-in sites at Needle Rock Visitor Center. All campsites are first come, first served. Backpacking camps have a pit toilet and fire rings. Usal Campground also has tables.
TRAILS: To sample the Lost Coast in a day, try the 2-mile round trip to Jones Beach or the 4.5-mile round trip to Whale Gulch. Both start at the north end of the park near Needle Rock Visitor Center. For an exciting multiday adventure, consider the 21-mile-long Sinkyone section of the Lost Coast, from the visitor center to Usal Beach. Just north of Wheeler, you'll walk through the hauntingly contorted redwoods of the School Marm Grove.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Migrating gray whales pass by Sinkyone during the winter and early spring. Sea lions and harbor seals hang out at Little Jackass Cove year round. There are also canyons, tide pools, arches, sea stacks and waterfalls. "Any time you're out there, you'll notice something new," says Ranger Tyson Young, who has worked in the area since 1999.
HIDDEN GEM: A herd of Roosevelt elk roams Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The local herd was exterminated more than a century ago, but these transplants from Prairie Creek State Park are thriving.
MORE INFORMATION: Go to the state park Web site, call (707) 247-3318, or write to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, c/o Richardson Grove State Park, 1600 U.S. Highway 101 #8, Garberville, CA 95542.
EAT: If passing through Garberville, try ordering the biscuits and gravy at the Eel Cafe.
If you're passing through Fort Bragg, Regan Ranoa, Outreach Manager, suggests the North Coast Brewing Company for a great place to grab some chow and taste the local beer. For a lovely view of the Noyo Harbor, try Silvers at the Wharf.
STOP: In Fort Bragg, Regan recommends stopping for a lovely train ride on the Skunk Train.
FAVORITE HIKE: Serious outdoor enthusiasts should try the Lost Coast Trail, which travels the length of Sinkyone State Park north through King Range National Conservation Area. The 60 mile trail makes an ideal week-long backpacking adventure.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: The wildlife and the sea! Roosevelt elk, harbor seals, sea lions, gulls and pelicans are all here.
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