Feb 12 2012

CCSP Guide to Mendocino Ski Tours

The Mendocino National Forest in Northern California contains nearly one million acres. From the Snow Mountain Wilderness in the southern end to the Yolla Bolly – Middle Eel Wilderness in the north, numerous peaks hold snow well into the summer.  Access to these peaks can be tricky.  And time consuming.  The better part of two decades has been spent unraveling the possibilities of earning turns in the Northern California Coast Range.

The Coastal Crest Snow Patrol (CCSP) consists of a group of friends that have spent the last couple decades exploring the possibilities of getting turns on the snow-covered peaks of the Mendocino National Forest.

I first discovered the skiing here with my good friend Eric Heim (sirjibalot).  We got our first turns in the Coast Range on Hull Mountain back in the mid 90′s.  We were amazed at the depth of the snow, the 1000′ of vertical and the steep terrain.  

We would drive up to Hull in the Jeep almost every week.  Camping out in storms, 4-wheeling and exploring the different bowls and ridges.  We eventually started to name all the runs at Hull.  

Here is a link to a Google Earth map of Hull Mt. with all the named runs.  

http://www.sonomawings.com/ge/ski-hull.kmz - Thanx to Ernie at sonomawings.com for help with the map.

The original members of the Coastal Crest Snow Patrol, along with myself and Eric, are James Anzalone (janzalo), Scott Cooper (jibC) and Mark Chon (snowblasta).  We eventually started to jib out to other peaks in the Forest.

Over the years, word as gotten out and the CCSP has grown. There have been several folks who have joined in on some of my trips. If you go with me, or do a trip on your own in the Mendocino National Forest, you are an honorary member of the Coastal Crest Snow Patrol.

Lake Pillsbury from 5500' on Hull Mt.

The southern portion of the Forest is accessed by Hwy. 20.  Hull Mountain sits just north of Lake Pillsbury.  From the town of Upper Lake, there are two ways to get there.  Google Earth likes the route through Potter Valley.  This is the best way to get there when the snow levels are really low.  The route up and over Elk Mountain (el. 4180) can have snow up to 4 feet deep.

Hull Mountain is 6873′ tall. Steep slopes on the west and south side offer 1000 vertical feet of super smooth corn snow all winter. The summit ridge heads east where more slopes, ridges and bowls offer even more ski runs. Popular with 4-wheel drive enthusiasts, the access road (M1) is often punched in with tire tracks, making the summit easier to reach for those with skis or boards. A Jeep helps here.

Hull Mountain from the top of Elk Mountain – Lake Pillsbury buried in fog.

The southern most peak, Snow Mountain, can also be accessed from highway 20 using Bear Valley Rd., right across the street from highway 16. Or from the town of Willows  via highway 162 on the I-5. The town of Stonyford is located here.  Access in midwinter is difficult.   Snow covered roads guard the mountain for many miles.  By late April or early May, the roads have melted off a bit and the summit is reachable in a day trip.


Heading home from Snow Mountain

This mountain is huge.  Often referred to as a sky island.  Two main summits, Snow Mountain East – 7056′ and Snow Mountain West – 7038′ sit in the middle of a sea of ridges and bowls.  From the Summit Springs trailhead, one run down the north-facing, 900-foot deep Stony Bowl will take all day.  I named it for the headwaters of Stony Creek which snakes along the north side of the mountain.  Long runs exist on almost every aspect.   The sea of ridges, peaks and bowls surrounding the two summits is around 8 square miles. Highway 101 runs along the west side of the forest and accesses the town of Covelo in Round Valley via the 162. Anthony Peak (B), Mendocino Pass and Black Butte (C) are located here.


Looking up from the road to 'Weather Station Peak'

Mendocino Pass is right in the middle.  Lots of good lines above and below the road, which winds around below the ridge and finally meets the ridge at the Pass.  Over three miles of lines come off the ridge and down to the road.  Turning left (north) at the Pass takes you about 4 miles to Anthony Peak (6958′).  Or continue on south (right/straight) for about seven miles to Black Butte (7455′).

Steep terrain at Black Butte

Black Butte can also be accessed from highway 5 using the 162 from Willows.  But the road is not plowed past Alder Springs.  The road from Covelo to Mendocino Pass, the 162, also known as FH7 (Forest Highway 7), is kept plowed to just about a mile before the Pass.  Very good access here. This is all private property.  The summit of Anthony Peak is privately owned.  But the locals are more than happy to share their terrain.  They are not big fans of snowmachines and will be much more willing to allow access if you’re willing to earn your turns silently.

More photos and directions on the next page…   

  • nesterg

    Great article. Lots of info, pictures, maps and links.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Deeboskim Dustin Boone

    Yeah awesome write up! I’ve done some much smaller scale backcountry snowboarding near the Sonoma County Geysers and have always been curious and interested to see if people are riding the higher elevations of Mendocino County. Great to find/see that you and your crew have actually done some very extensive exploration up there. I’m definitely interested in joing in on some trips this winter. Do you have a facebook account or is there a better way to contact? Thanks,
    Dustin Boone

  • Brent Heffner

    You can email me @ jibmaster.heffner-at-gmail.com
    Always looking for partners.

  • Pingback: CCSP Guide to Mendocino Ski Tours | EarnYourTurns