Sinkyone Wilderness State Park


California > Southern Humboldt County

The Needle Rock Visitor Center

Even by North Coast standards, Sinkyone Wilderness is strikingly wild and isolated, so much so that just getting there is something of an ordeal. The park offers a pure hiking experience; there's no traffic noise or other signs of civilization, and there are hadly even any trail intersections, just a singletrack trail winding atop high coastal bluffs for miles.

Sinkyone isn't really a redwood park; it doesn't have any monster redwoods or cathedral-like flats. The park does have three named old-growth redwood groves which have a certain intrigue due to their remote location, but the trail only briefly skirts two of the groves, and the redwoods that can be seen from the trail aren't generally that big. There are also smaller redwoods throughout the rest of the Lost Coast Trail. Also, the park has a long and rugged coastline but don't expect to find miles of beaches like in other coastal parks; there are just a few coves.

The only way to reach the northern trailhead is a 6-mile, one-lane dirt road that descends steeply from a high coastal ridge through lush woodlands. Although it's a slow drive it's not especially difficult for regular cars — in summer the main danger is encountering someone going the other way. It's probably not a good idea to drive the road in an RV or towing a trailer, or if it's muddy. In winter the road can become blocked by fallen trees or mudslides, stranding park visitors for days. The southern trailhead is reached by a very similar 6-mile dirt road from Highway 1.

The main trail through the park is the alluring Lost Coast Trail, a true wilderness trail that winds along the rugged coastline for 16.7 miles of punishing ups and downs. The trail, especially the most remote central section, can get rough and overgrown and is slow going, but it can still be followed without too much difficulty. The route is mostly wooded and feels remarkably unspoiled and remote. The park has several other trails, but they are actually old logging roads and are much less interesting.

Usal Road connects the park's northern and southern ends; it can be driven at 10–15 mph in normal passenger cars, although it would be a long and bumpy trip. The road is closed in winter.

Old-growth redwoods in Sinkyone Wilderness

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park has three remnant groves of old-growth redwoods. The groves are small and the trees within them aren't especially large, but they still make the park a lot more interesting. Two of the groves, Chase Grove and School Marm Grove, can be seen on the Bear Harbor to Wheeler segment of the Lost Coast Trail.

The third grove, the Sally Bell Grove, is off-trail and effectively can't be seen. Although the Wheeler Trail passes by the edge of the grove, one medium-sized redwood by the side of the trail and perhaps three or four more further back in the woods is all that is visible. The grove is historically important since it was one of the last significant stands of old-growth redwoods to be saved from logging.

At the south end of the park, the beginning of the Hotel Gulch Trail is densely wooded with redwoods. Although it's second-growth, the gulch is quite attractive and it's a short, easy walk from Usal Camp.

Old-growth redwoods in Chase Grove

Non-redwood hikes

*** Bear Harbor to Wheeler (10.6 miles)
This section of the Lost Coast Trail runs along a high coastal ridge to a small old-growth redwood grove and a beach.

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© 2010, 2016 David Baselt