Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 39.39000°N / 122.78°W
Additional Information Elevation: 7056 ft / 2151 m
Sign the Climber's Log


While not one of California's highest or more prolific peaks, Snow Mountain is an impressive mountain nonetheless. The southernmost peak of the North Coast Range, it proudly rises thousands of feet from the surrounding planes, standing as the monarch of the region. Constituting a corner of a county boundary, it is the high point of two counties (Lake- 7,056' & Colusa (also on Snow Mtn. E, but ~20 yds S of the summit)- 7,040+'). It is visible on a clear day from up to 45 miles away on 'the 5 (Interstate 5)', from Arbuckle (yes, the same as the surname of Garfield's caretaker, Jon!). Snow Mountain East is the true summit, standing at 7,056 ft., while Snow Mountain West rises to 7,038 ft. While limited (if any) technical possibilities exist on Snow Mountain, it nevertheless offers an abundance of great hiking and camping.

True to its name, Snow Mountain has… you guessed it- snow. In fact, the heavy, white, wet stuff may be found covering its upper regions through May, with patches lingering until mid to late June. In California, the reference "Snow Mountain" is quite ambiguous- there are numerous ones scattered throughout the state. The popularity of the name may perhaps be traced to the ostensible fascination the stereotypical Californian has with the mystical frozen material.

Interesting phenomena to be noted of the area are the loced-out, multi-hued metamorphic rocks that can be found around the summit & effects of a huge, lightning-initiated forest fire that occurred in 1987 (obvious at various places en route to the trailhead, as well as multiple places along the summit trail).


The Snow Mountain Wilderness

Snow Mountain lies fittingly within the Snow Mountain Wilderness, itself part of the Mendocino National Forest. The Snow Mountain Wilderness encompasses over 36,000 acres, and was created in 1984. Fifty-two miles of horseback riding (I haven't seen a horse there yet) and foot trails are offered. Demonstrating the tremendous base to summit rise of Snow Mountain, elevations in the Snow Mountain Wilderness range from 1,800 ft in the gorge of the Middle Fork of Stony Creek to (obviously) the Snow Mountain East summit elevation of 7,056 ft. Overlooked by most Bay Area residents intent on attaining Norcal's natural wonders farther north, such as the Lassen & Shasta areas, or driving east to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, or other parts of the Sierra Nevada, this area is pleasantly uncrowded.

Plants 'n' Critters (Flora & Fauna)

Due to its 'island in the sky' natural architecture (big-time elevation differential between base and summit) & temperate climate, Snow Mountain has a diverse array of life that calls it home. Interestingly, a full twenty-five percent of the flora encountered on Snow Mountain are at their southernmost geographical limit. This can be explained by the rapidly diminishing elevations of the mountains to the south, which are thus unsuitable habitat. Snow Mountain is also the southernmost subalpine environment in the Coast Range Province.

There is a good chance you will encounter a large number of lizards, of various kinds and sizes on your way to the summit (I did), that will quickly scurry away once they become aware of your presence. Snakes are also pretty numerous- most of them are benign (like garter snakes), but rattlers are also reportedly present (watch out!). Black bears also make there home here (though no bear canisters are required as of now, take necessary precautions {bear canister, counter-balance method, etc.} to ensure they don't get any of your food/smelly belongings). Other mamalian wildlife present includes black-tailed deer & squirrels, and I happened to see a fox darting away on the Deafy Glade trail as well.

Something that might tick you off: Easily understandable given the abundance of furry wild critters running around, there is also a thriving tick population. This was evidenced by my discovery of 3 of the little bastards engorging themselves upon my lifeblood (1 on my first visit, 2 the next time- the only ones ever to have the honour of dining on me). Take precautions to prevent these disgusting little parasites from becoming your short-term companions by wearing long-sleeved clothing, and minimizing your time spent in narrow, brushy portions of the trail. Make sure to check yourself after your visit, and if you find any of the little *@#!ers, be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease & go to the doctor if you suspect anything.

Representatives of the other kingdom (plant) include everything from beautiful yellow iris, oak & black oak, Jeffrey pine, and Douglas fir (at mid elevations) to chaparral, manzanita, & red and white fir (prominent at higher elevations), among others. Plant species found at their limit include rockcress, pearlwort, and wintergreen.


Getting There

Getting to Snow Mountain is half the adventure! Much of Snow Mountain's appeal comes from the solitude and lack of crowds found there- a lot of this is likely due to the limited access. While the peak seems a stone throw away from the interstate, this is not quite the case. Though of generally good condition and particularly fun to navigate if one enjoys sporty driving, the roads from Maxwell (the easiest initial access point from I-5) to Stonyford (the last real outpost of civilization before the mountain) are narrow and twisty- not good for those susceptible to car sickness. These roads will seem like freeway after starting down the county road onto which one turns at Stonyford, however (county road M10). Not too bad initially, the quality of this 'road' deteriorates with every mile until one's desired trailhead is reached. Beware, also, of navigating the M10 after dark- numerous foolish rabbits (and possibly a stupid cat) will dart in front of your vehicle, and likely try to outrun you using the beams of your headlights. Also, if your fuel level is questionable, gas up in Stonyford (your last option for petrol'!) at the general store * note: closes early * Despite all of this transportational mayhem, however, Snow Mountain is a delightful mountain, and the access deficiencies are but a small price to pay. So here we go:

· From the W (directions obtained from internet): Take the 101 to CA 20; take CA 20 E towards Upper Lake/Williams; after ~70mi, hang a L onto Leesville Rd; after 13.6 mi (portions unpaved), take a R onto Leesville-Lodoga Rd; take a L onto Lodoga-Stonyford Rd after 7.7 mi; from Stonyford, take a L onto Fouts Springs Rd (aka M10); at this point, follow directions as given below, subtracting 31.1 mi from mileages indicated (to compensate for drive from Maxwell to Stonyford)

· From the N (Redding, Red Bluff, etc.): go S on Interstate 5 until Maxwell; follow further directions below

· From the S (Bay Area, etc.): take I-80 to the cow town of Vacaville; take I-505 N to I-5; take I-5 to Maxwell; see further directions below

Once Maxwell has been attained, take L onto Maxwell Rd, going W (start odometer/trip meter @ 0.0 here):
- 9.4 mi: take a R at the 'T,' onto the Sites-Lodoga Rd
- ~22: go through Lodoga (is that a funky name or what?!)
- 23.2: take a R at the 'Y' where the road splits, onto the Lodoga-Stonyford Rd
- 30.8: after attaining Stonyford, take a L at the 4-way intersection, where the corner sign indicates "<- Market"
- 31.1: take a L onto Fouts Springs Rd (later to be known as county road M10), which runs into the road you're on from the L (making a 'T' intersection)
- 35.2: here you'll pass an unmanned visitors' centre; most of the information given here is useless for hiking and mountain climbing purposes (it's there mostly for the off-road vehicle trail users), but the site does have a picnic table, as well as a bathroom
- 43.1: the Dixie Glade drive-in campground is encountered on one's R
- 43.6: the 'pavement' ends; DEAFY GLADE TRAILHEAD ON THE RIGHT
- TO GAIN THE SUMMIT TRAIL TRAILHEAD- continue along the M-10: at approximately 1 ½ miles from the Deafy Glade trailhead/end of pavement, stay R where the Letts Lake turnoff branches off L; after another 6.5 mi, bear R at a sign pointing towards Bear Creek and Summit Spring; take a R after 2 mi onto road 24N02 (who thinks of these road names?!), where a sign indicates Summit Spring; after reaching a four-way junction at the Lake-Colusa county line 1.8 mi later, go straight for another 1.7 mi up steep road 17N06, where you'll finally reach the Summit Spring trailhead


Red Tape

No wilderness permits are needed for an excursion to Snow Mountain (to hike or camp), though it's recommended that you sign the register. A campfire permit is required if you plan on camping and sparking up (i.e. campfires, stoves, or lanterns- contact the Stonyford Ranger District)- campfire permit form (faxable)

Though bears are present in the area, currently no bear canisters are required (use your judgement & be careful when deciding on how & where to stash your grub and other smelly stuff, though).

When To Climb

The best time to climb Snow Mountain is between mid-June (once most of the snow has usually melted) and early October. Winter conditions close (at least) the last few miles of road leading to the summit trailhead. Snowshoes or skis would be mandatory, and avalanche conditions could be a concern. Navigating the at-times thick brush could also provide difficult route-finding. In early Spring (as late as mid-May), the streams are overflowing from meltwater- a mid-May summit attempt via the Deafy Glade trail required a stream crossing that, at it's lowest point, was at crotch-level (yee-haw!!! Actually sorta refreshing) of a 6-ft. human being; the same stream was easily crossed by rock-hopping less than a month later.


Snow Mountain offers virtually unlimited camping possibilities- literally. You can camp anywhere you want (try to avoid the road), no wilderness permits required. All ya need is a campfire permit, if ya want to make a stove- or campfire- induced fire (see the 'Red Tape' section). Contact the Stonyford Ranger District for 411.

For all you car campers out there, the Dixie Glade campground is free, and is reached on the M10, 12 mi after turning off from Stonyford, on the R.

Should you desire the security of a designated area, Cedar Camp (on the summit trail, about 2 mi from the Snow Mountain summit and shortly after the turn-off for High Rock) offers some nice sites with shelter (big trees, though no cedars are present), and a nice view of a meadow.

The summit also offers a nice flat area with bitchin' views (assuming the weather is cooperative).

Water obtainment is limited, based on primarily seasonal streams, so keep this in mind. Make sure to purify, too. This is bear country, so make sure you've got your bear can's, or know how to use the inferior counter-balance method (don't have any smelly {or "yummy," to a bear} stuff on your person while sleeping).


Mountain Conditions

The conditions at Stonyford (1,168 ft) might not be very indicative of mountain conditions, but it's the closest place around! If you have any doubts, give the Stonyford Ranger Station a buzz (see 'More Info'' section).


Due to its location, Snow Mountain has the advantage of views encompassing multiple famous ranges and landmarks: on a clear day, to the south, one is able to discern Mt. St. Helena & Bay Area monarch Mt. Diablo. The Sutter Buttes rise to the west, across the Sacramento Valley, with the majestic Sierra Nevada beckoning beyond them in the distance. Lassen Peak, the first of the Cascade volcanoes (& the world's highest plug-dome volcano), can be seen to the northeast, while mighty Mt. Shasta (2nd highest of the Cascade volcanoes) can be made out, 140 miles (!!) to the north. Mountains aside, Clear Lake is also visible to the southwest.


OHVs (Off-Highway Vehicles)

Mendocino National Forest is actually somewhat of a refuge to OHVs (Off-Highway Vehicles, i.e. dirtbikes and ATVs [all-terrain vehicles]) and their operators, contrasting somewhat with the peaceful, woodsy, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel of the place experienced otherwise. OHVs are allowed in National Forests, outside of wilderness areas (in this case, Snow Mountain Wilderness). Be mindful of their presence after 5 or 10 miles after turning off on the M10 road, looking out for them where the roadway signs indicate trail crossings.

More info'

Forest Supervisor's Office
Mendocino National Forest
825 N. Humboldt Avenue
Willows, CA 95988
(530) 934-3316 (office)
(530) 934-7724 (TTY)
(530) 934-7758 (emergency)

Stonyford Ranger District (8.00 - 16.30 Mon - Sat; closed Sun)
5171 Stonyford-Elk Creek Road
PO Box 160
Stonyford, CA 95979-0160
(530) 963-3128
(530) 963-3508 (TTY)

Mendocino National Forest webpage

Snow Mountain Hiking Association

Further Reading

· 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California by John R. Soares & Marc J. Soares; the Mountaineers; ISBN 0-89886-702-9

· California County Summits by Gary Suttle; Wilderness Press; ISBN 0-89997-164-4



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