The Mendocino National Forest is located in northwestern California and is comprised of 886,048 acres. There are 41 developed campgrounds, 13 of which meet the selection criteria. The Mendocino National Forest begins as a small presence near Red Bluff, California in golden foothills along the Sacramento River and expands into lush western mountains to within sight of the Pacific Ocean. These towering mountains, covered with forests, dotted by canyons, lakes, and ponds, provide a great location for a variety of recreational opportunities. Such opportunities as hiking, camping, fishing, and even hand-gliding and Off-Highway-Vehicle (OHV) riding, are available in the Mendocino National Forest. While only a three-hour drive from San Francisco, one of the amazing things about the Mendocino National Forest, is it retains an undiscovered feeling.
As a visitor to the National Forest, you are asked to follow certain rules designed to protect the Forest and the natural environment, to ensure the health and safety of visitors, and to promote pleasant and rewarding outdoor recreation experiences for all visitors. Forest Officers are empowered to enforce the Federal Regulations which the rules listed here are taken from. Please take time to read and understand them. If you have additional questions please use our "Ask A Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer" feature to receive an answer.
Hiking a crest trail along a mountain ridge, on a path through a deep forest, or down a canyon, the Mendocino National Forest has many wonderful trails to enjoy. A forest crest trail offers breath-taking vistas along with physical challenges and magnificent solitude. Trails through deep forests provide quiet woodlands, clean pine scented air and unexpected glimpses of wildlife. Hiking the Mendocino's canyons or across mountain meadows in spring or summer means time among purple-blue lupine, happy orange poppy, bush lilac, and a variety of ferns and wildflowers. The Mendocino National Forest has a trail for everyone. Possibilities range from the over four miles of paved, level walkways near Sycamore Grove campground to the very challenging 7-mile East Peak Loop trail in the Snow Mountain Wilderness. (Contact the Mendocino National Forest Supervisor's Office for more trail information, details, and current conditions.)
For those who want to explore the Mendocino National Forest via a motorized mode, there are over a hundred miles of off-highway trails. There is a Northern area and Southern area in the Upper Lake Ranger District and the Stonyford area of the Grindstone Ranger District dedicated to OHV adventures. And these areas are supported by developed campgrounds that cater to OHVrs. Fouts Springs campground, adjacent to Stornyford area's network of trails, is located in a burned over area and offers campsites large enough for all the equipment needed for a good day of OHVing. Middle Creek campground, just outside Stonyford, features connector trails to a huge network of trails and a riparian environment for a quiet moment or two.
For quiet and solitude is there any better activity then fishing? Letts Lake, just 19 miles east of the small ranching community of Stonyford, is well known for its Rainbow trout, Black bass, and catfish. A picturesque four loop campground called Letts Lake provides campers with a great location for enjoying the lake's beauty and bounty.
The 2,280-acre Lake Pillsbury also has trout and bass along with Sacramento pike and several nice developed campgrounds. Fuller Grove at one end and Sunset Point at the other, have basic amenities for a good camping experience. A freshly caught fish from Lake Pillsbury makes for a great dinner.
One unique thing about Lake Pillsbury is the old-fashion airstrip separating the campgrounds. (Look for the stop sign or you will miss it.) Hand-gliding is becoming a popular activity in the Mendocino National Forest. Lake Pillsbury's Gravelly Airstrip is just one of the many landing areas for the hand-glider enthusiast. Launch locations are, in the Upper Lake District, Hull Mountain and Elk Mountain, and, in the Grindstone District, Potato Ridge. While experts find flights over the Forest exciting and challenging, this is not an activity for the novice. Contact the appropriate Ranger District Office for more information and conditions.
There is history in the Mendocino National Forest, too, for those who are interested. At one time, sawmills, mines, and their supporting communities dotted the Forest but little is left today except place names on maps. There are also the ruins of three resort hotels, mineral baths, and bottling plant for mineral water at Bartlett Flats, Fouts Springs, Hough Springs, and Allen Springs. One annual event that relives the past retraces the Nome Cult Trail, also called, "A Trail of Tears." The event remembers when the Native People (Maidu) were relocated from Chico, California to the Nome Cult Reservation in 1863.
The Mendocino National Forest straddles the eastern spur of the Coastal Mountain Range. From a distance, these mountains appear to be painted on the horizon in somber shades of black. But there is nothing somber about the fun and adventures that await discovery.
The Forest Supervisor may issue Special Orders/Closures that will close or restrict the use of certain areas if the need arises. Such orders will be posted so that visitors to the National Forest can reasonably be expected to be familiar with them. Copies of the orders will also be available in the offices of Forest Supervisors and District Rangers.
Please remember to be careful! You are primarily responsible for your own safety. Look out for natural hazards and dangers when you are in the Forest. If you hike off trails or swim or dive in rivers or lakes, you do so at YOUR OWN RISK.
- Use picnic sites, swimming beaches, and other day use areas only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
- Campgrounds and other recreation sites can he used only for recreation purposes.
- In campgrounds, camp only in those places specifically marked or provided.
- At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise been granted by the Forest Service.
- Do not leave camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours without permission from the Forest Service.
- The Federal Government is not responsible for any loss or damage to personal property.
- Remove all personal property and trash when leaving.
- Obey restrictions on fires.
- Open fires may he limited or prohibited at certain times.
- Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, build fires only in fire rings, stoves, grills, or fireplaces provided for that purpose.
- Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving.
- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING FIRES UNDER CONTROL.
- Do not carve, chop, cut, or damage any live trees. Preserve and protect Eldorado National Forests. Leave natural areas the way you find them.
- Enter buildings, structures or enclosed areas in National Forests only when they are expressly opened to the public.
- Native American, old cabins, and other structures along with objects and artifacts associated with them, have historic or archeological value. Do not damage or remove any such historic or archeological resource.
- Throw all garage and litter in containers provided for this purpose, or take it with you.
- Garbage containers, when provided, are reserved for the use of visitors to the National Forest, not visitors to or owners of private lands or lands under permit.
- Wash food and personal items away from drinking water supplies.
- Use water faucets only for drawing water.
- Prevent pollution - keep garbage, litter, and foreign substances out of lakes streams, and other water.
- Use toilets properly Do not throw garbage, litter, fish cleanings, or other foreign substances in toilets and plumbing fixtures.
Operation of Vehicles:
- Obey all traffic signs.
- State traffic laws apply to the National Forests unless otherwise specified.
- When operating vehicles of any kind, do not damage the land or vegetation or disturb wildlife. Avoid driving on unpaved roads or trails when they are wet or muddy.
- Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, use cars, motorbikes, motorcycles, or other motor vehicles only for entering or leaving, unless areas or trails are specifically marked for them.
- Park only in marked parking areas.
- Do not block, restrict, or interfere with the use of roads or trails.
- Obey area and trail restrictions on the use of trail bikes and other off-the-road vehicles.
Pets and Animals:
- Pets must always be restrained or on a leash while in developed recreation sites.
- Pets (except guide dogs) are not allowed in swimming areas.
- Saddle or pack animals are allowed in recreation sites only where authorized by posted instructions.
Fireworks and Firearms:
- Fireworks and explosives are prohibited in the National Forests.
- Firing a gun is not allowed: in or within 150 yards of a residence, building; campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area. across or on a road or body of water; in any circumstance whereby any person may be injured or property damaged.
National Forest Wilderness:
- Motor vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed in wilderness areas.
- Preserve the wilderness - "Leave only footprints, take only pictures."
- Using a trail, campsite, or other area of the wilderness area by a group of more than 25 members is prohibited except by special-use authorization.
- You must pay a fee to use certain developed sites and facilities. Such areas are clearly signed or posted as requiring a fee.
- Where fees are required, you must pay them before using the site, facility, equipment, or service furnished.
- No fighting or boisterous behavior.
- Keep noise at a reasonable level.
- Please be considerate of fellow visitors.
- Business Activities Permits are required for any commercial activity.
- Operate any audio device, such as a radio or musical instrument, so that it does not disturb other visitors.
- A permit is required for operating a public address system in or near a campsite, developed recreation site, or over a body of water.