NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California


Mendocino National Forest- Forest Road M10- to Letts Lake & Beyond

This is a fine drive because it leads to a fine place, Letts Lake. If you only go that far you have succeeded. But you can continue on, ultimately traversing the national forest from east to west- or the reverse. Letts Lake is quite beautiful, surrounded by forest and stocked with rainbow trout. It is a fine place to fish, swim, hike, canoe or kayak. At the end of this dissertation we have provided a link to our page about the lake so click there for more information about it, the campsites and other useful information.

Phase 1- Stonyford to Letts Lake

A disclaimer up front. Much of this area was decimated in a 2012 fire. Other areas were decimated in an earlier fire. Luckily, Letts Lake and its immediate surroundings were spared and you would not know that there was a fire standing beside the lake. But as you drive the area you will see obvious evidence, and several areas and campgrounds that otherwise would be attractive are not today. In addition, several campgrounds were closed for repairs so check with the Stonyford Forest Service Work Center (530-963-3128) for current conditions. The OHV staging areas with their 5 essentially contiguous campgrounds were especially hard hit.

This trip starts in the hamlet of Stonyford. To get there you take Interstate 5 to the town of Maxwell, which is between Williams to the south and Willows to the north. If you are coming from the west, you can also take Hwy. 20 east from the Clear Lake area to the intersection with Int. 5 at Williams. Then drive north a few miles to Maxwell. If you are coming that way, you could save a few miles, but probably no time, by taking the local Leesville- Lodega Rd. off Hwy. 20 before you get to Int. 5. It is a winding, poorly maintained road so you choose. Either way you are headed to the village of Lodega. From Maxwell, take the Maxwell Sites Road (the main street) west to Lodega. Turn right (north) on the Lodega-Stonyford Rd. to Stonyford. From there turn left on Fouts Springs Rd. at the site of the Forest Service Work Station. That road will become FR M10. You will drive about 6 miles of paved road, followed by about 10 miles of very good gravel. The road is very windy with a pretty good elevation gain; you will head up, then down, then up, and down again, all the while negotiating switchbacks. So it's a second gear kind of road.

A slight diversion. It's recommended that you stop at the Stonyford Work Station, particularly if you intend to go off-road. They have an excellent map funded by OHV use fees that is a cross between a forest service map and a topo map. It is excellent. They leave them outside in a self-service box if you are traveling at night. Also, if you need provisions, get them at the Stonyford market, including gas (or diesel). You'll not want to make that drive back into town for a quart of milk or bottle of beer. Lastly, the road to the lake is narrow. It has wide spots periodically for purposes of passing, but they are somewhat infrequent. If you are driving a large vehicle, or towing something long, if you got unlucky and met someone going the other way doing something comparable in the wrong spot, someone is going to have to back up, perhaps for quite a spell. People pull large trailers into there, but we wouldn't.

If you are an OHV enthusiast, about 8 miles outside Stonyford you will encounter a series of 5 adjacent campgrounds catering to you. Unfortunately, they aren't very attractive due to the depredations of mother nature. Many are still in a state of repair as of 2013. So check with the Stonyford Work Center for current conditions. The campgrounds are Fouts, South Fork, Gray Pine Group Camp, Davis Flat and Mill Creek.

OHV Campgrounds

Location: FR M10 between the hamlet of Stonyford and Letts Lake.

Attraction: OHV staging area.

Campsite Description: Fouts: 11 dispersed sites for tents or RV's to 16 feet. South Fork: 5 tent sites. Davis Flat: 60 dispersed sites for tents or RV's of any length. Mill Creek: 6 tent sites. Gray Pine Group Camp: one site for tents or RV's to 26 feet that will accommodate up to 75 people. All have vault toilets. Drinking water is available at Fouts, South Fork and Davis Flat.

Season: Year-round, weather permitting.

Reservations: Gray Pine Group Camp only.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees Varies   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 1,700 feet
Toilets Pit   Supplies Stonyford

Information: Mendocino National Forest, Grindstone Ranger District. (530)963-3128.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area:

Off-Road Opportunities in Area: Many

There are two more campgrounds between the OHV area and Letts Lake. One is the Dixie Glade Horse Camp, with 8 sites for tents or RV's to 26 feet. It offers picnic tables, fire grills and vault toilets. No potable water.

The other is Mill Valley Campground, only a mile from Letts Lake but damaged by fire.

Mill Valley Campground

Location: FR M 10 about 1 mile from Letts Lake.

Attraction: A small pond; access to OHV trails. Damaged by fire.

Campsite Description: 15 sites for tents or RV's to 18 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and potable water.

Season: April- October, weather permitting.

Reservations: None accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $10   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 4,200 feet
Toilets Pit   Supplies Stonyford

Information:  Mendocino National Forest, Grindstone Ranger District. (530)963-3128.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area:

Off-Road Opportunities in Area: Many

So, you're not riding an OHV and you're at Letts Lake. Click this link for anything you need to know.

Phase 2- Letts Lake to Somewhere

So you've decided not to backtrack to get home. You crave more adventure. Not to worry; FR M10 continues on. But you need to know that there is a river crossing involved and thus a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended. The Rice Fork of the Eel River must be crossed so before embarking on this leg of your adventure check with the forest service (707-275-2361) about road conditions. If you're still with us, read on. Leaving Letts Lake, FR M10 meanders west toward civilization. You are headed toward a rendezvous with FR M1 and the option to head north from there to Covelo, or south to Upper Lake. From either place you can return to a life of paved roads and river crossings that actually involve structures called bridges. But we digress. On the way west you will encounter that last established campground, Bear Creek.

Bear Creek Campground

Location: Forest Road M10.

Attraction: Proximity to Bear Creek, with the opportunity to fish for trout. Summit Springs trailhead provides access to the Snow Mountain Wilderness. There are numerous OHV trails in the area.

Campsite Description: 16 sites for tents or RV's to 22 feet. No hookups. Picnic tables, fire grills and vault toilets available. No drinking water.

Season: Year-round, weather permitting.

Reservations: None accepted.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $5   Fishing Yes
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water No   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev 2,000 feet
Toilets Pit   Supplies None nearby

Information: Mendocino National Forest, Upper Lake Ranger District. (7070 275-2361.

Day Hikes in Area:

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Summit Springs Trail.

Off-Road Opportunities in Area: Several.

Leaving Bear Creek, FR M10 will soon end and provide you with 2 options. Option 1- turn right onto FR M3. Option 2- continue on as the road becomes County Road 310C.

FR M3 will send you off on yet another adventure, more daring than this one. It will take you northeast thru the Snow Mountain Wilderness and ultimately end in the middle of nowhere at the junction with Forest Highway FH7- Alder Springs Road. Head west on FH7 and you will end up at FR M1 at the Eel River Work Center just outside Covelo. From there it's an easy jaunt to Hwy. 101. Head east on FH7 and you will end up at the intersection with County Road 306 just north of the town of Elk Creek. Drive south from Elk Creek and you will end up where you started, Stonyford. There are no towns or other forms of civilization on this trek so be prepared.

In just a few miles, County Road 310C joins and becomes FR M1 just north of the Penny Pines Campground. The fastest way out would be to turn left (south) on FR M1 and drive to the town of Upper Lake. A right turn (north) on FR M1 will take you to the Eel River Work Center and from there to the town of Covelo. See our write-up on FR M1 for more information.

End of Trip