The biggest problem with getting outside in the Bay Area? Being spoiled for choice.
Where highways have failed, trails persist — which is why the Lost Coast remains the province of the intrepid hiker and not the real estate developer. Result: a near-pristine beach wilderness prime for exploration, along a 25-mile section of the Lost Coast Trail.
Most hikers do the trail over three or four days — it's no PCT, but there are enough tricky bits to challenge the most detail-oriented outdoorsman. Bear cannisters? Don't leave home without ’em. Impassable sections? You'll need to contend with rising water across certain sections of beach, so plan on getting intimate with the local tide schedule. Shuttles? Most hikers use one to reach the northern trailhead — try Lost Coast Adventure Tours. One thing you don't need to worry about: Overnight use permits. They're required but available on demand. Established campsites are first-come, first-served, but latecomers can set up elsewhere along the trail — which you'll want to hike north-to-south, to keep the wind at your back.
If the degree of difficulty alone doesn't grab you, the Lost Coast is a superior trail thanks to its spectacular landscape — where else in this country can you access such extensive beach wilderness? — and wildlife, from sea lions to the aforementioned black bears, Roosevelt elk, and over 300 species of birds.
This one belongs on the bucket list — but if you have a free (long) weekend coming up, book it soon: Weather is iffy year-round, but rain picks up from October to May. The trail will be busy on Labor Day weekend, but no one said you can't take off, say, the Friday after.