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Lake Pillsbury, Mendocino National Forest, California

Hiking and backpacking at its finest, through pastoral grasslands and forests of pine and fur.

Contact Information:

Forest Supervisor’s Office

Mendocino National Forest

825 N. Humboldt Ave.

Willows, CA 95988

Upper Lake Ranger District

Middle Creek Road

Box 96

Upper Lake, CA 95485


Stonyford Ranger District

Box 160

Stonyford, CA 95979


Covelo Ranger District

78150 Covelo Road

Covelo, CA 95428


Corning Ranger District

22000 Corning Road

Box 1019

Corning, CA 96021


24-Hour Information: 916/934-2350


Lake Pillsbury is located in the Upper Lake District of the Mendocino National Forest, three hours northeast of San Fransisco. Ukiah, about an hour to the west, is the largest nearby town.

Getting There:

From San Francisco, take U.S. Hwy. 101 North from San Francisco to Ukiah. Turn at State Hwy. 20 and follow the signs to Potter Valley and Lake Pillsbury.

Seasonal Information:

Approximate high-low temperatures:


Low Elevation – 40 to 68 degrees

High Elevation – 25 to 53 degrees

Intermittent rain with thundershowers in late spring.


Low Elevation – 57 to 94 degrees

High Elevation – 42 to 79 degrees

Thunder showers at high elevations.


Low Elevation – 42 to 76 degrees

High Elevation – 27 to 61 degrees

Intermittent rain.


Low Elevation – 32 to 62 degrees

High Elevation – 17 to 47 degrees

Rain at low elevations; snow at high elevations.

In summer, temperatures are in the 60s at night and the high 80s and low 90s in the day. In winter, campgrounds are not open and the access road may be closed. Winter temperatures can range from -20 to 40 degrees F.


Keep an eye peeled and you’ll see bald eagle at Lake Pillsbury. Flocks of bandtailed pigeons vacation at Thomas Creek in the fall, and golden eagles soar above Black Butte and Anthony Peak. Common mammals are deer, quail, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, and wild pigs.

There have been reports of black bear problems in some campgrounds, especially the Lake Pillsbury area in Upper Lake District and Hammerhorn Lake area in Covelo District.

Hunting is allowed during the authorized hunting season.


Contact park office for information.

Plant Life:

Contact park office for information.


Camping is restricted to existing sites in the National Forest. Most campgrounds are free of charge. A few charge from $3 to $20 per night, with the average being $7. There is a group campground with handicap sites available by reservation.

No water hookups, electrical hookups or sewage disposal sites are available for trailers.


Parking information is available from the ranger stations.


A permit is required for fires outside the provided campground rings, so call or write one of the contact addresses.


  • Bikes and motor vehicles aren’t allowed in designated wilderness areas.

  • Fires outside of official firepits and rings are prohibited without a permit.


  • The Mendocino NF treads a fine line between motor vehicles, bicycles and hikers. If you want to avoid multi-use areas get Off-Highway vehicle guides for each district and plot around these trails.

  • Watch out also for snakes, poison oak, and possible illegal marijuana growing. This is evidently enough of a problem for the Forest to put out guidelines on how to stay out of trouble if you stumble onto a pot farm.

Leave No Trace:

All LNT guidelines apply.


Detailed ATV and singletrack trail maps are available.

Other Trip Options:

Snow Mountain Wilderness and Yolla-Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness offer a secluded alpine hiking experience within the borders of Mendocino.

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