Waterside camping near Shelter Cove

Find serenity at rustic campsites in the rugged wilderness near Shelter Cove.

98% (2927 reviews)
98% (2927 reviews)

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Waterside camping near Shelter Cove guide


Situated in Humboldt County on the Pacific Ocean along California’s Lost Coast, Shelter Cove is bursting with remote natural beauty that draws campers to its world-class hiking, mountain biking, and iconic landmarks like Cape Mendocino Lighthouse. Besides the unspoiled coastline, many people know Shelter Cove as the endpoint of the iconic Lost Coast Trail. Backpackers and wilderness campers can find campgrounds within nearby parks like King Range National Conservation Area, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The campsites are equipped with bare-bone amenities but stunning views right from the tent. Outside the park limits, there are more campgrounds that offer fancier accommodations as well as cabin rentals with wifi and RV campsites with full hookups.

Where to go

King Range National Conservation Area

Shelter Cove is nestled in King Range National Conservation Area, which covers 68,000 acres. Check out Black Sands Beach, and head to Deadman’s Beach for surfing in spring and fall. Or hike to King Peak, then go biking on the Paradise Royale Mountain Bike Trail System. For campers hiking the Lost Coast Trail, there are many wilderness campsites in King Range that sit along it and the coast—snag a backcountry permit for any overnight wilderness camping. RVers can also find campgrounds with parking at trailheads that have fire rings and vault toilets.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

Canyons, gray whales, dark sand beaches, tidal pools, sea stacks, and rolling hills—campers will find authentic untamed wilderness in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The park stretches along the coast and is home to the lesser-known southern section of the Lost Coast Trail. Backpacking and equestrian camping are the only options in this state park—some campsites have fire rings but most have no amenities and the terrain is too rugged for vehicles. Just outside the park, RVers can set up at pull-through campsites with full hookups and dump stations, as well as restrooms and shower facilities. There are also cabin rentals equipped with kitchenettes, full bathrooms, cable TV, and wifi.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Boasting over 100 miles of trails for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders that range from easy to expert-level, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is alluring to any kind of camper. It’s situated an hour northeast from Shelter Cove and contains the South Fork Eel River—an excellent spot for fishing, boating, and swimming, as well as the renowned Avenue of the Giants. The area offers over 250 campsites to choose from—most feature picnic tables and fire rings as well as access to flush toilets and pay showers. Some campgrounds have corrals for equestrian campers and a few welcome RVs, but there are no hookups or dump stations within the park (the stunning redwood trees certainly make up for it, though).

When to go

The temperate climate of Shelter Cove means campers can enjoy its natural treasures year-round. The shoulder seasons bring cooler temperatures, less-crowded campgrounds, and unique wildlife sightings—migrating gray whales make an appearance in winter and early spring, followed by colorful wildflowers that last into summer. Rain is common from November through March which causes a lot of road and campground closures (especially in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park), so check ahead to ensure access.

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