NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Letts Lake*

Description: A small (35 surface acres), remote lake at 4,500 feet in the Mendocino National Forest with camping, trout and largemouth bass fishing and hiking. Plaskett Lake and East Park Reservoir are in the area, providing options. See the pages for those lakes. Probably more appropriately named Lower Letts Lake, we rate this one very highly. It is a natural lake. It's shoreline is very hospitable and accessible; not rocky or hard to reach. Fishing can be accomplished from shore or a small non-motorized boat or float tube. It is ideal for a kayak, canoe or small inflatable. There is good lake access in several areas. There are bass hiding in the lily pads and trout stocked in the late spring. The Forest Service campgrounds are excellent; probably as clean and well-maintained as any. The access road takes you about 16 miles from the village of Stonyford with the last 4 miles on an unpaved but excellent forest road (M 10). It is appropriate for any vehicle, but if you are to towing a trailer be advised that the road is narrow, winding and somewhat steep in spots. There are frequent widened areas for passing, but if you got unlucky and two oversized vehicles were to meet in many spots someone is going to have to back up. So travel trailers are not recommended, although people do tow them in. There was a significant fire in this general area in 2012 so much of the surrounding countryside is denuded of all growth; Letts Lake was spared and none of the burned-out terrain is visible from the lake. But if you are looking to camp elsewhere check with the Forest Service first. Lastly, this general area is popular with OHV enthusiasts and there are many trails designed to accommodate trail bikes and ATV's. But those vehicles are prohibited in the vicinity of the lake so everyone can have his/her space. Summation: if camping at a smaller, somewhat remote campground with no room for crowds with easy access to a pretty lake sounds like a plan, this may be for you. No camping reservations accepted.

Location: ( GPS: Lat: 39.18.10.238999 Long. 122.42.27.6948). Getting there is a bit of a slog, but worth it. The easiest way is to take Interstate 5 to Williams and continue north for a few miles to the village of Maxwell. Turn west on Maxwell Sites Road. Continue on as it becomes Lodoga Stonyford Road. Your immediate destination is the village of Stonyford, so follow the signs. You will pass the hamlet of Lodoga on the way. At Stonyford you can visit a Forest Service Work Center (open 8AM to 4PM as of this writing) to get maps or info. There is an excellent free map called the Motor Vehicle Opportunity Guide that shows all of the trails and OHV areas. It's not quite a topo map but is much more detailed than a typical wilderness map. A small store sells basics and gas, including diesel. Turn left on Fouts Springs Road at the Forest Service site and drive the 16 miles to the lake. As noted before, the road is paved for all but the last 4 miles, and the gravel part is very well maintained after the rainy season has ended. The first 4 miles are flat, followed by an incline, a decline into a pretty valley and another incline to the lake. Most of the road will find you in second gear. The trip from Maxwell will approach 50 miles so you gotta want to go there. Another option would be to take Hwy. 101 to the junction of Hwy. 20 east just north of Ukiah and then down the east side of Clear Lake and over to I-5 at Williams. Or you can take Forest Service roads from the west. Get a map first.

Nearest Town: Stonyford. Basic provisions can be had at the general store, including gas and diesel.

Camping: Letts Lake: 4 campgrounds with 44 sites for tents or RV's to 20 feet. Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water and pit toilets. Some sites wheelchair friendly, as is a fishing pier that isn't always open.  Reservations not accepted. Open May thru October. A few tips. The first campsite you will encounter is the most popular. It is at lake level and quite fine. If you continue past that one, the second site may be the best for many people. It is only a few feet above lake level and still allows you to drop a boat into the lake. It's a bit more isolated if the first campground is heavily populated. Near that is an unsigned day use area that is the absolutely perfect spot to fish from shore, or launch a boat. Past that are 2 more campsites that do not offer easy lake access or views but are obviously less popular. All offer pit toilets and potable water. There are no bear-boxes and those fellows aren't a problem at the campgrounds but smart people don't leave food and other attractants out anyway. $12 daily fee; discounts with senior and other passes. Mill Valley Campground: One mile away. 15 sites for tents or RV's to 18 feet. Picnic tables, fire stoves, drinking water and pit toilets. Reservations not accepted. Open mid-April thru October. This area was ravaged by a 2012 fire so is denuded of vegetation and should be avoided, as is true of several sites in the immediate area. Check with the Forest Service before making plans for other than Letts Lake.

Fishing: Stocked trout and largemouth bass. Very good lake access in many areas. Good lake for shore fishing. Perfect for kayaks, canoes and the like. No motors allowed, including electric. A tip. To the left of the main campground there is a signed road to a picnic area about 1/4 mile away. Drive or hike there and you will have a trail around the lake from the side away from all of the campgrounds. Fishing access from shore is available in many spots, including an area with lots of lily pads.

Boating: No motors allowed. Small car top boats and the like okay. Great for kayaks and canoes. Easy access in several areas but you'll need to carry your boat a short distance.

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Mendocino National Forest. The Snow Mountain Wilderness is just to the north of the lake.

Information: Mendocino National Forest. 530-963-3128. The Stonyford Forest Service Work Center has maps and a very nice person who can help.

Supplies: Stonyford General Store. 530-963-3235. Gas, diesel and basic provisions. If you need diesel there is none in Maxwell so the only other local option is in Williams.

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