Lost Coast Black Sand Beach

California, U.S.A.

Starfish Rating of 4

Claim to Fame

Location of dozens of shipwrecks; famed for its black sand (only natural black sand beach in mainland America).

(click image to enlarge)
image courtesy of Threat to Democracy
  • Where is it?the Pacific Coast in northern California, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Eureka and 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of San Francisco
  • Coordinates: latitude» 40.0306°
    longitude» -124.073°
  • Water Type: saltwater
  • Climate: combined cool-summer Mediterranean and maritime, with high humidity levels; rainy winters and cool dry summers with frequent coastal fog
  • Development: near the town of Shelter Cove
  • Length of Beach: complete area, 80m/129km; length of black beach alone about 1.75 m/2.8km
  • Type: black sand with deep grey shale, rocks and pebbles
Current Weather

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Situated near the quaint town of Shelter Cove, the Lost Coast Black Sand Beach is both isolated and accessible, an oxymoron that defines the area in general. From long, quiet beaches to the famous, massive California redwood evergreens, and from grassy hillsides to 4,000-foot mountains, this is an area of condensed geographical diversity.

Black Sand Beach on the Lost Coast is a must for the traveler that respects nature and is intent on finding excellent photography opportunities in a range of images. The natural beauty of the area sits in contrast from one end of the beach to the other, and even more so slightly inland.

Thanks to an offshore reef, there are consistent waves lapping Black Sand Beach, but they are often too dangerous for surfing and people seldom swim here. However, during the summer months, the waves tend to lower and surfers take advantage of this.

This is not typically sunny California; the north is starkly different from the south in topography and climate. Still, in the summer afternoons, once the fog has burned off, the beach will be drenched in warm sunshine on most days.

This is a walking, hiking and exploring type of beach, rather than a swimming and water sports sort. There is peace to be found here, especially early in the morning, perched on a hillside with coffee and a camera, waiting for the fog to slip back to the sea and reveal the surrounding King Range mountains and the rhythmic surf.

Near Four Mile Creek sits a lighthouse, now out of use. Once the beacon against the many shipwrecks that occurred in this region, the Punta Gorda lighthouse was erected in the early 1900s after yet another ocean disaster, the wreck of the Columbia that took 87 lives, rocked the area. It had been in operation for 40 years when it finally ceased to shed light. Again, it is a photogenic relic that adds to the intrigue and variety of the Lost Coast Black Sand Beach, a place definitely worth finding.

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