A hike on a real black sand beach in a remote corner of Northern California
Guarded by a long, steep and winding road, Shelter Cove California is home to a gorgeous black sand beach. The beach is rated one of 11 best beaches in California and the 7th best black sand beach in the world. It is readily accessible from the Black Sand Trailhead parking lot off of Beach Road in Shelter Cove, part of the Lost Coast of Northern California that is shut off from any road that parallels the coast.
The black sand beach is actually not black sand but small black pebbles, just so you can set expectations with your kids – sand castles don’t really work here and your feet can get sore after a while hiking.
For a real adventure it is possible to start here on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast of California. Though you can’t camp right at the black sand beach, you have to hike a few miles north. We did this with our two dogs and it was gorgeous but tough hiking. We didn’t get nearly as far as we thought we would because it is just plain tough going hiking in the sand. Which is fine, just don’t have the expectation you’ll cover the same amount as normal trail hiking.
It is beautiful but it is the Northern California pacific ocean so watch for rogue waves and be careful wading or looking at tide pools.
I do have to admit not having to drive down that road. We flew in and just started backpacking right from the plane. So no winding road, but there are other challenges when flying. Betsy does not at all like flying in clouds and the morning of our departure there was the typical layer of clouds over Shelter Cove. I tried to explain it would only be 30 seconds to a minute of cloud flying, but I’ve tried that before and it turned out to be longer. She didn’t take the bait.
She talked to a couple in an RV and they agreed to drive her out. I would fly and pick her up at an airport in Garberville on highway 101. Just before they departed a bit of blue sky showed itself so at the last minute she got off the RV. We waited another hour and by that time there were big blue holes I could fly through. Whew!