The South Fork Eel River is a principal tributary of the Eel River. The South Fork Eel River Wilderness is comprised of sections of the BLM's Red Mountain and Cahto Peak units.
The Red Mountain unit is dominated by Red Mountain and the Cedar Creek drainage. Elevations range from 1,100 feet at the southwest end along Cedar Creek to 4,083 feet, less than three miles away at the top Red Mountain. Terrain is generally steep, consisting of rugged drainages dropping abruptly into Cedar Creek canyon. A small area of fairly gentle slopes is found near the summit. A zone of reddish soil occupies the central part of the area and contrasts sharply with the surrounding landscape. These unusual soils have resulted in a unique vegetation cover of several species of pine and cypress trees intermixed with a low brush understory. Rare and endangered plant species occupy the landscape covered by these ultrabasic soils.
The Cahto Peak unit is comprised of several Douglas fir forest watersheds, one of which is so pristine that it has been designated a Biosphere Reserve, a National Natural Landmark, and a Hydrologic Benchmark. Much of the area is designated a Research Natural Area / Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the South Fork Eel River Wilderness.
The BLM's Red Mountain unit is 75 miles south of Eureka, California and three miles northeast of Leggett, California. The Cahto Peak unit is 100 miles south of Eureka, California and 10 miles west of Laytonville, California. These two areas are bisected by U.S. Highway 101 and private lands.
The Red Mountain unit is accessed by traveling U.S. Highway 101 to Piercy and then the frontage road to Red Mountain Access Road. Travel to the end of Red Mountain Access Road. The wilderness area is upslope several hundred meters; however, there is no developed trail or identifying markers along the permanent exclusive easement that passes through private property.
Access to the Cahto Peak unit is from U.S. Highway 101 at Laytonville, west on Branscomb Road, then right on Cahto Peak Road to its end.
Legal access to the Red Mountain unit is along a public easement that passes through private property. This easement route has not yet been developed or otherwise marked. Private lands lie within the wilderness area. Please respect the owner and do not use these lands without permission.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act - Public law 109-362 (10/17/2006) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forests and certain Bureau of Land Management lands in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa Counties in the State of California as wilderness, to designate the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area, to designate certain segments of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County, California as a wild or scenic river, and for other purposes.