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Hiking & Walking: California > Mendocino National Forest > Covelo Ranger District

Quick Facts

Hell Hole Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation: 2,100 Feet (654.6 Meters)
Elevation Gain: 700 Feet (218.2 Meters)
Length: 5 Miles (8.33 Kilometers)

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Hell Hole Canyon trail is a difficult, steep and rugged trail. It is approximately five miles to Fly Creek where it meets Travelers Home National Recreational Trail. This trail is not recommended for horseback or pack animals.

Directions from Covelo: Travel one mile north on State Hwy. #162 EAST. Travel approximately 9 miles to the Eel River Bridge. After you cross the bridge turn left on to M1/Indian Dick Rd and travel approximately 4 miles up M1 to the trail.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Open: Year-round (NOTE: Access may depend on snow cover and conditions.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Filed By: Thomas Farley (San Francisco, CA)
Time of Day: morning
Length of Time: four hours
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Not Recommended
Report: This was supposed to be a loop of Hellhole Canyon, Devil's Den, and Traveler's home trails on mt bike. My buddy and I are advanced mountain bikers and estimated the loop to be about 20 miles, but it urned out to be about 28 when starting and finishing at the Eel River Work Station.
Conditions: All three trails are in terrible shape except for the southern two miles of Hellhole and the Souther two miles of Traveler's. I do not recommend attempting to mt bike this trail. We encountered approx 200 downed trees across the trails, many branches, and many slides. Route finding was challenging with no signs and just tree blazes and rock cairns. You will get lost, confused, and backtrack many times. Many parts of Devils Den and Traveler's resemble game trails.
Water Availability: Great water supply at the Eel and several spots along Traveler's.
Recommended Clothing: Make sure to bring some Dr Bronners to wash off all the poison oak you will get on you. Bring a jacket, bivy bag, extra food, and matches so when you get caught out on the trail at dark, like we did, you won't have to huddle and shiver by a fire all night.
Suggested Accessories: We carried or pushed our bikes approx 18 miles out of the 28 miles. This is not a mt bike trail no matter what any guide books say. Wold be a nice place to hike but bring a GPS, the trail markings suck and if you wander into some grower's crop you might get beat up or shot.

Filed By: John Griffith (Ukiah, CA)
Time of Day: 8 days
Length of Time: 8 days
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: In August of 2005, my crew (CCC trail crew) fixed some of the worst parts of Hell hole trail. THere were a number of slides that obscured the trail and several down trees. We cleared the worst and made passage easier. This most recent winter probably brought some of its own slides, but I'm willing to bet it's still much better than it was before we were there. The views of the Eel River on your way to fly creek are awe-inspiring. You will be peering over the cliff expecting to see Bigfoot far below skinny dipping in one of the many pools. THere are several old oak groves situated on the sides of steep shale slides -- otherwise devoid of plants. I haven't often seen this and found it a comfortable habitat for pondering life. If you're a geology or plant nerd it will take you nine years to finish the trail. There is a discovery at every step.
Conditions: Hot? Oh yes, definitely. Thank God for FLy Creek! Bugs? Uh huh, those too. THere's plenty of scorpions there looking for roomates. One crawled into a crewmember's open tent. He gently picked the creature up and evicted it without being stung. (Whew!) He had no previous training as a scorpion handler and retired shortly after his first experience in the profession. Keep those tents zipped up! If you're a poison oak lover you will be absolutely flabberghasted!
Water Availability: Bring water and a water filter. If you visit Hell Hole after July you may even want to bring your rain dancing shoes.
Recommended Clothing: If you get poison oak you may want to wear a Tyvex suit, burka or come dressed as a mummy. Otherwise, all the usual weekend-hiker fashions should suffice. I wore the CCC uniform the whole time and found it quite comfortable. Sadly, the uniforms are unavailable for you to purchase at the mall. Whatever you wear, make sure that you slather sun screen on your uncovered parts. Bring a bee sting kit and benadryll if you have allergic reactions to fly-by stingings.
Suggested Accessories: I've worked on a lot of trails and I must say, Hell Hole trail is definitely not for L.L. Bean models. If your hard core and love nature you will love this trail. If you are as fascinated with the Eel River Watershed as I am then I say pack your stuff and go to Hell Hole right now! If you are a oak loving, rock collecting, Bigfoot believer then sell your house and start squatting. If Hell Hole proves to be beyond your nature tolerance head to the Yolla Bollies, the higher elevation trails are almost tick, scorpion and poison oak free. As far as Bigfoot is concerned, I'm sure he prefers Hell Hole.

Filed By: nicolaso pertusato
Length of Time: Several hours
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Neutral
Report: The trail was very difficult to follow. Even now I am not sure I made the right place. Descending to the river was the trickiest part. I didn't have a rope.
Conditions: Fairly good conditions, although I did encounter several rattlesnakes on the exposed sections of the trail. Two in our party came back with a nasty poison oak rashes.
Water Availability: Plenty of water, be sure to filter though. Swimming is good, but cold. Could only stay in for 5 minutes or so max.
Recommended Clothing: Sunhat for sure. Long pants and shirt sleeves to ward of the ravenous mosquitoes.
Suggested Accessories: Bring a bear box! We were camped by the river and didn't properly head the numerous obvious bear tracks (possilby a mother and two cubs). Woke up in the middle of the night to find a bear rummaging through our food bags. We lost two nights of food and had to come out early. Worst part was when I woke up to scare the bear away, I must have got between it and the cubs, because it got pretty surly and chased me into the river. I only was able to escape by swimming across a large pool. Needless to say, after loosing the food and the nighttime commotion, we came out two days early.

Filed By: Hell Hole Hikers
Length of Time: Hours......
Difficulty: Hard
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Not Recommended
Report: Hell Hole Canyon certainly lives up to its name. If you follow the trail it disappears into steep poison oak covered shale slopes. We actually had to cross with ropes and lost my sleeping bag down the horrible canyon. The elevation gain on the way out is ridiculous. Numerous cases of poison oak and broken shoes resulted. Sure its beautiful, but only the insane say it is worth it.
Conditions: Bears in campsite, rattlesnakes, naked guys, aand local target shooters.
Water Availability: While plentiful, it runs very cold.
Recommended Clothing: Long clothes to prevent mosquitos
Suggested Accessories: Technu, Water pump and 200ft rope

Filed By: Zhdan Rudnyckyj (Cloverdale, Ca.)
Time of Day: 10:40 P.M.
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We took the Hell Hole Canyon trail for the 4th of July weekend. After about a mile the trail intersects a Jeep trail which we followed down. When we reached a locked green gate we veared to the left and dropped along a wooded ridge into some large open meadows with an overgrown cat track leading down towards the river. At the end of the cat track we took a small trail to the right that dropped to within 75 ft. of the river bed. At this point we used a rope to repell the steep scree and poison oak covered slope to the river. Across the river there is a dramatic triangular bluff with a campable flat bellow. Our camp site was around on the other side of the bluff on some high sandy banks. Points of interest in this area of the Middle Eel include striated rock formations, possibly the remains of the spreading ocean bottom at the mouth of Hell Hole Canyon, volcanic spires along the south ridge of Hell Hole, and a place we call "the shoots" which lie about a mile beyond the mouth of Hell Hole canyon going upstream, or about a half mile below Fly creek going downstream. In this area the river flows over sheets of river washed basalt(?) (I'm not a geologist) through narrow crevices. Some of the falls are doable for body surfing the crevices surely are. Great fun on a hot day.
Conditions: Sun sun sun. Water water water. No people. Skinny dipping all day. Why would anyone go to Yosemite?
Water Availability: Pump from the river drink from the springs.
Recommended Clothing: Light clothes for sun protection and covering up at night.
Suggested Accessories: River shoes or sandals. Climbing rope. (not really technical but the rope helps on the final descent to the river bed, especially if you are carrying heavy packs).

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Backpacking trips are available from this trailhead. There are several opportunities for extended loop hikes of four days to a week or more, which offer a variety of experiences.
ICON Camping Camping is available from this trailhead. Campsites are usually found where the trail passes by a water source with some flat ground.
ICON Hiking & Walking Hell Hole Canyon Trail
ICON Picnicking There are plenty of picnic spots along this trail.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Covelo Ranger District, 78150 Covelo Road , Covelo, CA, 95428, Phone: 707-983-6118, TTY: 707-983-6123


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