Mokelumne Wilderness

Photo of trail winding through flowers.

Welcome to the Mokelumne Wilderness

The 105,165 acre Mokelumne Wilderness straddles the crest of the central Sierra Nevada, within the Stanislaus, Eldorado, and Toiyabe National Forests. This area lies within portions of Calaveras, Alpine, and Amador Counties and is bordered by State Highway 4 on the south and State Highway 88 on the north. Watersheds drain to the Mokelumne River on the west slope and the Carson River on the east slope. New Management Guidelines were recently adopted for the Mokelumne Wilderness.

The Mokelumne Wilderness is a rugged landscape of great scenic beauty. Much of the area is dominated by volcanic ridges and peaks. The prominent feature is disputably the rugged Mokelumne River Canyon. There are many smaller streams flowing through deep granitic canyons but only a few lakes concentrated in the northern portion of this spectacular area. Elevations range from about 3900 feet near Salt Springs Reservoir to 10,380 feet at Round Top. Precipitation averages 50 inches annually on the west slope and as little as 15 inches on the east slope, 80 percent of it in the form of snow. Snowcaps typically linger into June in the Round Top region to the north and on the Mokelumne Plateau to the south, while the Mokelumne River Canyon above Salt Springs Reservoir can be free of snow as early as March. Summers are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers occur periodically and nighttime temperatures may dip below freezing any time.

General Information and Regulations

  • Campfires - Campfires are allowed below 8,000 feet in elevation. Camp stoves are allowed in the entire wilderness. Your Wilderness Permit is also your campfire permit while visiting the Mokelumne Wilderness in a location where a campfire or camp stove is allowed.
  • Campfires are prohibited in the following locations:
    • Above 8,000 feet.
    • Carson Pass Management Area
    • North Fork Mokelumne River Canyon along Salt Springs Reservoir and the Blue Hole Trail
  • Campfires are prohibited to reduce human-caused fires, impacts to vegetation from firewood collection, and to reduce the visual impacts of fire rings and surface scarring.
  • Method of Travel - Travel is restricted to horseback or foot only. Trails in the Mokelumne Canyon are maintained in a primitive and challenging condition and are not recommended for stock use. All means of mechanical transportation, including bicycles, are prohibited in wilderness. Wheelchairs are allowed. Stay on trails and do not shortcut switchbacks or create parallel ruts by walking alongside the trail.
  • Waste - Visitors are required to bury human waste 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites. Toilet paper must be buried or packed out. Garbage must be packed out.
  • Group Size - Maximum group size: 12 people for day-use, and 8 people for overnight use.
  • Pets - Domestic pets are allowed in the Mokelumne Wilderness at this time. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. In the Carson Pass Management Area pets should be leashed or physically restrained at all times. Elsewhere within the Wilderness, dogs should be either leashed or under direct voice control. Dogs can disturb other campers, get in fights with other dogs along the trail, and scare wildlife away. The Amador and Alpine County leash laws will be enforced inside the Wilderness boundary where dogs off leash are an impediment or hazard to the safety of any person, or where dogs are harassing or molesting wildlife.

Carson Pass Management Area

Due to the popularity of the Carson Pass Area, restrictions are now in effect to ensure your opportunities for solitude, a primitive recreational experience, and to protect popular camping destinations from overcrowding and heavy impacts.  

Mokelumne Wilderness Permits

Permits are mandatory for entry into the Mokelumne Wilderness year round for overnight use.  

Recreational Stock Use

In the Mokelumne Wilderness, visitors using Pack Stock in the Wilderness are subject to the same regulations and guidelines as other wilderness visitors. There are further guidelines and regulations that are intended to protect the wilderness from the more severe impacts pack stock can have on resources.  

About The Mokelumne Wilderness

  • Mokelumne Critters : Mokelumne Wilderness provides visitors with the opportunity to witness a diverse population of wildlife.
  • Mokelumne Geology : The geologic history of the area now known as the Mokelumne Wilderness has been long and complex, and what is visible today reveals only a fraction of this.
  • Mokelumne History : The Mokelumne Wilderness has a long history of use by both Native Americans and European settlers.
  • Mokelumne Plant Life : The Mokelumne Wilderness possesses an incredible diversity of plant life and a number of unique remnant species for the area. There are several Special Interest Areas in the wilderness area.