Snow Mountain Wilderness

The Snow Mountain Wilderness encompasses 37,679 acres in the Mendocino National Forest. Snow Mountain is the southernmost peak of the North Coast Range. Higher elevations within the wilderness are relatively flat and eroded, mid elevations are quite steep and dissected. The Middle Fork of Stony Creek has rocky bluffs. Snow Mountain straddles the summit of the Northern Interior Coast Ranges within Colusa, Glenn and Lake counties. The area is less than a four-hour drive from San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Sacramento. The central feature of this wilderness is the large, broad topped Snow Mountain, which drains water toward the Sacramento River on the east and the Eel River Basin on the west.

Fifty two miles of trail are concentrated in the crest zone above the 6,000 feet elevation. This leaves a vast amount of acreage very remote and highly conducive to crosscountry exploration. The moderate hike to the top of East Peak affords visitors a magnificent view of the Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, Clear Lake to the southwest, Coastal mountains to the west, and the timbered mountains of the Mendocino National Forest to the north.

The Snow Mountain Wilderness ranges in elevation from 1,800 feet in the gorge of the Middle Fork of Stony Creek to 7,056 feet on the summit of East Peak. The deep canyons skirting Snow Mountain compress ecological life zones creating a unique biological sky-island.

Vegetation in the Snow Mountain Wilderness ranges from chaparral brush and oak on the low elevation slopes to black oak and mixed conifer at the mid-elevations. In the crest zone, thick stands of true fir, weather-shaped Jeffrey pine and incense cedar exist around natural openings of bare rock and erosion pavement. At the dry lower slopes hikers will find scattered patches of lupine, golden eardrops, coyote mint and Indian paintbrush. As hikers progress up, they will encounter scattered moist meadows and streams which are accented by scarlet and yellow monkey flowers and other colorful moist-site herbs. As they reach the exposed rocky ridges, wild buckwheat, penstemon, wild onion, purple monkey flowers and pussy paws are more common. Some 122 species of wildlife inhabit the area including black tailed deer, black bear, mountain lions, bald eagles, golden eagles and goshawk.

The Middle and South Forks of Stony Creek are the only reliable fisheries within the Wilderness. The gorge formed by the Middle Fork of the Stony Creek, as it passes St. John Mountain, has the best native rainbow trout fishery in the area. Rough terrain has helped keep this stream productive, allowing only the hardiest of fishermen to make the trek into the inaccessible canyon.

The best time to visit Snow Mountain Wilderness is from early spring to late summer. Snow usually lingers on the high crest-zone until later June. Bathhouse, Trout Creek, Deafy Glade and Bear Wallow Trails can offer exhilarating, snow-free winter hikes. Always be prepared for bad weather.

Wilderness permits are not required but we ask that you sign the register at the trail head; however, a campfire permit is required. Campfire permits can be picked up at any Forest Service office.

For further information contact: Stonyford Work Station And Upper Lake Ranger Districts, Mendocino National Forest

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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