Five hours north of San Francisco runs an 80-mile swath of coastline so remote that in the early 20th century highway engineers chose to bypass the region. From the gorgeous Black Sands Beach near Shelter Cove to the Victorian village of Ferndale, the Lost Coast might just be the West's best-kept secret. Set up camp at the Mattole River and spend a day doing some serious trekking along one of the many loop hikes in the King Range National Conservation Area (707-986-5400). But if your idea of getting lost involves a glass of chardonnay and a dog-eared novel, relax at the sumptuous Benbow Inn (800-355-3301), overlooking the Eel River, an hour east in Garberville.
Photography by Catherine Karnow 
This article was first published in July 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.