Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Located in the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests in California.

In the Wintun Indian language, "so-la" meant "snow covered", and "Bo-li" meant "high peak." The second part of this Wilderness' name refers to the headwaters of the Middle Fork Eel River which originates in this remote and rugged land.

This area was first protected in 1931 when it was classified as a primitive area. Further protection was given when this area became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, created by the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The California Wilderness Act of 1984 added another 42,000 acres to the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, for a total of about 150,000 acres.

The Wilderness is roughly oval in shape, being about 19 miles long in the north-south direction and 24 miles wide in the east-west direction. The majority of tile Wilderness lies in two districts of Mendocino National Forest (Covelo ant Corning Ranger Districts). The far northern portion of the Wilderness is in the Yolla Bolly Ranger District of Shasta-Trinity National Forest. To the far west, a part of the Wilderness is in the Mad River Ranger District of Six Rivers National Forest, and the BLM has a small portion of the Wilderness (also on the western edge.) The Yolla Bollys are as rugged as any mountains you will find in the United States. The steepness of the land between the peak makes hiking a true wilderness experience.

The lowest point of the Wilderness is along Cottonwood Creek (2600' elev.). This is just four and a half miles from the highest point, Mt. Linn, at an elevation of 8092 foes, Several other peaks push their way above 7000 feet and provide fine views (weather and smoke permitting) of Mt, Lassen, Mount Shasta, the Trinity Alps, the Kings Range and sometimes the Pacific Ocean.

The forests in this Wilderness are extensive. The principle species are red fir, white fir, douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and incense-cedar. Less common species are western juniper, foxtail pine, hemlock, Jeffery pine, western white pine, black cottonwood, and a rare yew or two. Other cover types include grasslands - locally known as "glades", wet and dry meadows, oak woodlands and brushlands.

The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, like the rest of the Coast Range, provides quite a wealth of wildlife. The more abundant game species are: the Columbia black tail deer, black bear, wild turkey, gray squirrel, grouse, and quail. Other animals that live in the Wilderness are mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, ring-tailed cats, raccoons, marten, otters, weasels, chipmunks, and numerous other small species. Eagles, hawks, buzzards, and multitude of other bird life find summer homes in this Wilderness (including the Northern Spotted Owl).

Hiking Trails

The trail system in the Wilderness is quite extensive and loop trips are possible from most trail heads, minimizing the need to double-back on your trip. The crowds of hikers and horses that keep trails obvious in more highly used regions like the Sierras are not found in the Yolla Bollys. In some cases you might be the first person over a section of trail that season. A topographic map of the Wilderness is available for two dollars from the Ranger Stations listed at the end of this information sheet.

Trails in the Yolla Bollys tend to gain and lose elevation frequently, making the estimation of hiking times difficult. Trail conditions will vary from those trails which are easy to follow, to trails that require map and terrain reading skills. Descriptions of Covelo District trails are available through the Covelo Ranger Station.

Campsites are usually found where the trails pass by a water source with some flat ground. Please keep pets and pack animals away from drinking water sources. Graze for stock is not always available at each camp and by late August what grass is available is very low in nutrient content. When taking supplemental feed, avoid taking hay and raw grains which can introduce non-native grasses and woods into the wilderness.

The trails and camps you may wish to use will depend on the type of landscape you want to explore and the amount of time you have. From the Covelo side, the Soldier Ridge and the Green Springs Trail heads offer quick access to the high country around Solomon Peak. The Rock Cabin and the Georges Valley Trail heads offer access to rivers and streams. There are several opportunities for extended loop hikes of four days to a week or more, which offer a variety of experiences.

Solitude is a main attraction of this wilderness. The hiking season runs from May to October. The main use of the area occurs during hunting season in September. Parties are limited to 15 persons in the Beegum and Trinity River drainages. A 25 person limit is in effect for the rest of the area.


The availability of drinking water is one of the most limiting factors for hiking and riding in the Yolla Bollys. By August, river and stream levels drop considerably, some disappear, and some springs stop flowing. Water levels do not pick back up until October. Years of successive droughts can decrease water supplies even more. A water availability map is kept up-to-date at the Covelo Ranger Station for the Covelo portion of the Wilderness.

All water should be treated by boiling, filtering and/or adding chemicals against possible contamination by Giardia and other water-born diseases.

There are several "lakes" in The Yolla Bollys (rarely do they exceed an acre in size). Some do have fish, and several creeks and rivers have a native rainbow trout population. There is a fishing closure on the majority of the Middle Fork Eel and the North Fork of Middle Fork Eel Rivers, and on the Balm of Gilead Creek to protect steelhead spawning grounds. Please consult the California Fish and Game Regulations before fishing these waters.

Permits and Access

Wilderness permits are not required for day use or overnight trips into the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness Area. Campfire Permits are required in the Wilderness if you plan to have a campfire or use a stove of any kind. Campfire permits are available from any Ranger Station. Fire restrictions can come into effect during the summer, limiting the use of open fires and stoves -- check with any Ranger Station before entering the wilderness.

There is road access to or near the Wilderness boundary on every side. From the west side, via Highways 101 and 162, you will travel through Longvale, Covelo, Eel River Work Center, and then north to the Indian Dick area -- a total distance from Highway 101 of about 75 miles (three hours travel time). Access from the west is also possible by the way of Ruth and the Jones Ridge Road through Six Rivers National Forest.

From the Sacramento Valley, you may reach the Wilderness by turning west at Willows, Corning, or Red Bluff. Distances to Wilderness trailheads from the east side vary between 50 to 90 miles from Highway 5.

Visitors to this Wilderness must expect, on every route, considerable miles of travel over rough and dusty dirt roads. Roads are often in use by logging trucks. Be sure to keep to the right side of the road at all times, especially around blind corners.

Access to the Wilderness is possible from early May to late October most years. Winter time use of the Wilderness should be contemplated only by those persons trained and experienced in travel and survival under adverse weather conditions. Access to the Wilderness boundaries can be severely hampered in winter by muddy roads and snow conditions. Many roads are closed during winter - please check with the closest Ranger Station.

For further information contact: Corning And Covelo Ranger Districts, Mendocino National Forest -Or- Yolla Bolla Ranger District, Shasta-Trinity National Forest -Or- Six RiversNational Forest

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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