The CCT Needs a Trail Corridor off Highway 1 Around Rockport

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

The south end of the Lost Coast doesn’t just begin at Usal. You can already feel the Lost Coast (and see its King Range heart on a clear day) five miles north of Fort Bragg. When you get to Westport, you’re already on the Lost Coast.

Magnificent Highway 1 follows the California’s coast for 7 l miles, from Dana Point in Orange County until the highway turns inland north of Westport at Hardy Creek. Travelers stop on the blufftop above

Hardy Creek to gaze north at steep, slidetorn hills plunging to the ocean. It looks like the end of the civilized world, and for most of the 80 miles of coastline to the north, the rugged terrain has thoroughly refuted efforts to tame it. The Lost Coast’s precipitous, geologically active cliffs have certainly defeated highway builders. No highway follows the north coast again until Humboldt Bay.

Imagine the impact on travelers if we could post this sign at Hardy Creek:

The California Coastal Trail stays off highways from the Oregon border south until Usal Road ends at Highway I, with two exceptions of less than a mile. These 226 miles at CCT’s northern end offer the trail’s most complete portion to date.

Unfortunately, when CCT now reaches Highway I at the end of Usal Road, the trail’s nature changes for the worse along the spectacular Mendocino coast. In the next 100 miles, CCT takes to Highway for 52 miles, with another 26 miles on secondary roads, leaving only 22 ½ miles of trail walking in the rest of Mendocino County. The CCT’s apparent Highway I obsession starts with 9 ¾ miles along one of the most crooked, narrow, and dangerous portions of the highway.

A great opportunity exists to get the Coastal Trail off Highway I for some of the seven miles south of Usal Road. Mendocino Redwood Company now owns about 1000 acres along the dramatic, rugged coast from Soldier Frank Point south to Hardy Creek. Another timber company, Soper-Wheeler, owns adjoining headlands north to Usal Road, and though their land isn’t for sale, they already lease access to that property to a hunting club and might be convinced to lease an easement for CCT. Coastwalk has talked with Mendocino Redwood Company about allowing the CCT to cross their land around spectacular Rockport Beach. The company’s representatives expressed interest in allowing an off-highway route for the CCT on their property around Rockport. If the idea becomes reality, hikers would have access to a new CCT route thereby getting a permit that would be available from Coastwalk. With a trail over Cape Vizcaino to Hardy Creek, public access along the Lost Coast would be expanded, and CCT’s highway mileage in Mendocino would fall by 10 percent. This would make dramatic steps toward completing California’s Coastal Trail.

Update: This section of the Coastal Trail still remains along Highway 1 however it is important to continue advocacy with both the State Coastal Conservancy and Mendocino Land Trust to consider ways to purchase conservation easements for a trail and public access. It was their partnership as well as citizen advocacy that created the Peter Douglas Trail near Usal Beach where you can view the magnificent candelabra redwood trees.  

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume One: Oregon to Monterey (2nd Edition) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
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