M1 - Elk Mountain Road to Lake Pillsbury

Upper Lake, California (Mendocino County)

Last Updated: 07/15/2019
4.3 / 5 ( 4 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Length: 18.16 miles
Highest Elevation: 3730 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Upper Lake
Nearest Town w/ Services: Upper Lake
Official Road Name: M1
Management Agency: Mendocino National Forest
District: Upper Lake District


Highlight: M1 - Elk Mountain Road to Lake Pillsbury
National Forest route M1 (also known as Elk Mountain Road) is the main south-to-north arterial that acts as the "spine" of the Mendocino National Forest. Seemingly endless single-track OHV trails (bikes and quads only) and double-track trails wide enough (and signed for) street-legal 4WD vehicles branch off regularly as you travel along the M1. For this reason we have documented its many intersections as comprehensively as possible, with a waypoint for each one. Note that the "Ranch" fire of 2018 closed many of the trails in this area; the BLM has been working hard to get them reopened, but many of the single-track OHV-only trails are still closed for repair.


Route Information

Technical Rating

( EASY )

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1. Trailhead - Penny Pines Staging Area (0 mi)
At the broad pullouts on Elk Mountain Road / M1 immediately south of the Penny Pines campground (which is a popular staging area for those towing OHV's), you might want to air down in order to make the ride more comfortable. If you have a CB radio, tune to channel 19, which is the officially sanctioned general channel for this region. Penny Pines campground is 100 yards to the north, and has 9 campsites with newer fire rings and picnic tables, and two vault toilets.

Directions to Trailhead

From Ukiah, CA, take Highway 101 north 6 miles to Highway 20. Take Highway 20 east for 26.5 miles to the town of Upper Lake. Note that this town is your last opportunity to buy gasoline and food. At the intersection of Highway 20 and Main Street, zero out your odometer. Then turn left onto Main Street, and follow it until it it reaches a 'T' intersection with Mendenhall Avenue. Turn right on Mendenhall. Follow Mendenhall .2 mile until it reaches another 'T' intersection. Turn left on Elk Mountain Road. Note that the Upper Lake Ranger Station is at this intersection, and is a great resource for maps, campfire permits, etc. The initial section of Elk Mountain Road up to the trailhead is paved; after penetrating into the valley, you'll pass Middle Creek campground, then the road will start to switchback steeply upward. After 14.3 miles and innumerable switchbacks, you'll reach the saddle on the shoulder of Elk Mountain where the road tops out and enters the Mendocino National forest. Drive 1 additional mile to reach the Penny Pines staging area. The road broadens into wide dirt pullouts on both sides here, as this is the most popular place for OHV enthusiasts to unload their bikes and quads from off their trailers. The campground entrance is on the left just 100 yards north of the pullouts.



Trail Reviews (5)

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: would you recommend going over to clear lack then going up the 20 to connect with m1? if I did Walker Ridge Road in the morning and want to comp near m1? is there a GMRS channel that is used in the area?
–joshua ellis (04/26/2018)
–Vlad Mott (05/29/2018)
Q: do you know if there is a trail that will take you from Walker Ridge Road to this trial?
–joshua ellis (04/26/2018)
–Vlad Mott (04/26/2018)

Writer Information

Vlad Mott

Mapping Crew - California

Vlad Mott is a longtime outdoors enthusiast who loves hiking, jeeping & backcountry adventure.
For individual use only, not to be shared.