Level 2 FS Road - Off of M2
Adventure and Dual Sport motorcycle enthusiasts often ask QWR if it has any suggestions on where to explore new (at least to many riders) remote federal land backcountry areas with forests, scenic views, access to challenging motorized routes, and high elevation camping opportunities.
Ride Through Conifer Forest
While on a recent multi-day post-winter storm route assessment in the Northeast portion of the Mendocino National Forest, QWR was impressed to highlight and share an approximately 120-mile loop of high elevation native surfaced Forest Service System Roads (designated for street legal vehicles) that provide public access to both motorized and non-motorized backcountry recreational opportunities including the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness area.
Map of Adventure Loop
QWR staged from the Stonyford Rodeo Grounds which hosts the annual Oakland Motorcycle Club’s SheetIron Dual Sport Ride. QWR works with club members to staff the event’s tech inspection where vehicles are checked for sound compliant mufflers spark arrestors, and current registration.
Start of Adventure Loop
For the purposes of this article, the trip starts at Stonyford and continues north on County Road 306 for about 25 miles where the 1st leg of the 120-mile loop begins at the CR 313/306 intersection. This too is where M9 starts.
Designated OHV Trail in Doe Peak Area
The road quickly gains altitude through a chaparral landscape to the ridge near Doe Peak (elev. 3557 ft.). The Doe Peak area has a number of designated OHV routes that offer varying degrees of difficulty for both street legal and non-street legal OHVs.
Looking West from Valley View Fire Lookout
QWR suggests that you travel a few more miles up M9 and watch for the Valley View Lookout sign which directs you a short distance to the site of the historic Valley View Fire Lookout. Although the lookout is no longer there, the site gives you a breathtaking view across a “big forested valley.” You will want to spend some time here taking in the scenery.
Log Springs Station
If you are trying to do this loop in one day, you will want to continue on to the Log Springs Summer Fire Camp. This is a historic Forest Service fire station where you can stop and enjoy the big trees and shade.
Nome Cult Trail
Also at Log Springs is where the Nome Cult Indian trail crosses the route. 300 Indians from Chico and other northern California Tribes camped at this site in 1863 on their journey to Round Valley. (see above pic for more info). It is important to spend time here in contemplation of that event.
Sugar Springs Campground
Just a short distance to the north of Logs Springs, you will enter the M9/M4 intersection where you will take a left and travel west through a conifer forest. In about 5-7 miles you will want to take a lunch break at the Sugar Springs Campground. This high-elevation site is in a stand of large trees. It has a developed campsite with picnic table and fire ring. There is also a vault toilet.
Depending on how many side routes you decided to explore, you may want to consider spending the night at this high elevation campground. I know I plan to come back up here later this summer.
After leaving Sugar Springs Campground, you will travel a few miles to the M4/M2 intersection. Take M2 north where it skirts the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness area. There are also many dispersed camping opportunities with scenic views of the Yolla Bolly Mountains including Sugar Loaf Mountain (elev. 7367 ft.).
View of Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness Area
On your 60 mile path east towards Paskenta, the road takes you past many dirt roads that are also open for non-street legal OHVs. Watch for signs to Cold Springs, Post Pile, Kingsley Glade, and many other interesting sites.
Intersection in Paskenta
There is a small market in Paskenta that sometimes sells fuel. It would be wise to check with them if you think a gas fill-up is in order.
M4/M9 Connector Intersection
From Paskenta, head southeast about 6 miles on Round Valley Road to the M4 intersection. Head west on M4 a few miles until you reach the M4/M9 connector route intersection. Take a left at the intersection and go a short distance to 23N05. Stay left on 23N05 for about 6 miles until it intersects with M9. Turn left on M9 and head back down the mountain to CR306 where this journey started.
Forest Management Project along M4
As we alluded to in the first part of this article, this is a very remote and rugged portion of California. There are basically no services. Riders have to be well prepared to take on bike repairs, etc. A good first aid kit is recommended and also a satellite locator that can be used in an emergency.
Enjoy the Ride
QWR was unable to do about a 25 mile section in the NW part of this loop due to a large downed tree across M2 (it was reported to the FS). Be sure and contact the Mendocino National Forest to see if the roads are clear.
LINK to North FS MVUM Map (mostly M4/M2)
LINK to North Central FS MVUM Map (mostly M9)
June is Great Outdoors Month and QWR’s adventure bike module hopes some of you might decide to challenge yourself on this loop. If you go, please let us know how you liked this remote portion of the Forest. It will be an adventure to be remembered.
# # #
PS – This would also be a great adventure loop for those of you with high clearance SUVs and 4WDs.