2018 Top Nine Early Season Morel Spots in Northern California

Morel Madness
UPDATE: 2019 burn maps and updated Burn Morel ebook are now available. Take a Look >
Morel season in California is starting!  In this article we will focus on the best places in Northern California to hunt for Morels in March and April. Finding a good early season morel spot in California this year is difficult. There are SO many fires to choose from. Despite the challenge, we wanted to see if we could find a few places that are worth exploring.

We started by looking at all the forest fire perimeters from the 2017 fire season in California. Since there are so many, we employed a few techniques to narrow them down quickly:

Removed any fires that happened South of Sacramento
Removed fires that weren't on public forest land
Removed fires that were in obviously arid locations
Removed fires that didn't have adequate tree cover
Removed fires in designated wilderness areas

This exercise left us with only about 25 fires with the potentially best environment conditions for burn morels. Certainly there are CA fires removed from our list will sprout mushrooms... (especially fires in Yosemite, Sierra, Sequoia and Stanislaus National Forest)... but here we are focusing only on Northern California.

Next, we looked at the terrain of each fire. We targeted fires that were under 2,500 feet with relatively easy access. This was made easier by creating color gradients. 

This is a sample map that makes elevations below 1,500 feet blue and then creates a purple to yellow gradient up to 2,000 ft. This helps us find spots, like this one, in blue, that is going to be pretty low elevation. This creek bed should pick well in the early season. This really looks like a nice spot! Road access. Creeks running East/West and North/South offering moist areas and all aspects. A bit steep though... so you may have to billy goat some areas.

The elevation check left us with nine "early season" fires. The other 15 fires will produce better in late April, May and June.

The burn areas we found in California started as low as about 800 feet above sea level but were more commonly in the 1500+ elevation zone. Generally speaking, we recommend you:

Focus on the lower elevations earlier in the season and work up as the season progresses. By Memorial Day you could be looking at 4-5K feet in elevation.
Know that morels fruit on North facing slopes a few weeks earlier than South facing slopes.  
Explore a few different elevations/aspects as you scout your fire, looking for the elevation zone where the mushroom are currently fruiting.
Time your trip so that it follows some good rain, and preferably NOT colder than normal weather.

The Good Stuff
If you are new to our blog, you should know that we offer full access to curated 2018 WA, OR, CA & ID Fire Maps (2017 fires) with an e-book called Pacific Northwest Burn Morels. You can purchase access to the digital download and maps here for $39. You must have a Google account to access the maps which were created using Google Maps. With purchase we also include access to more detailed burn information via these types of blogs. Below we have detailed the nine CA fires mentioned above for you to explore.   

If you purchase the e-book & maps you will receive:

PNW Morel Hunting E-book which provides lots of great information to get started with this new hobby.
Awesome Google maps of 2017 fires for 2018 mushroom foraging in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Top 9 Early Season Spots in California - detailed and mapped out (below)
Top 10 Spots in Oregon - detailed and mapped out.

Here is a sample of one of our favorite burns detailed in the Members Only part of this post:

Ponderosa Fire. Blue is 1,250 feet. Purples are lower in elevation, Greens are higher in elevation and Yellow is 2,500 feet. (map above shows yellow at 2,000 ft)

Ponderosa Fire: North of Sacramento, Near Oroville.  This fire is featured above in the Picture. Sucker Run Creek is down near 1,250 feet and hopefully Utility Rd 3 is open for cars. This fire looks promising, but might be a bit steep and could be hard to access of the roads aren't open to cars. A good site to explore on an electric mountain bike or hike into on the many 4wd roads if they are closed. This heavily wooded site features E/W and N/S creeks which mean there will be lots of riparian habitat and slopes facing all directions.
Member's Only Content
The full maps of each of these fires are available here.

Below, we will include some pictures of fires with elevations noted by color gradients to help you see the lower elevations but, they are probably inadequate to use in the field. Use them to cross reference with full fire maps.
NW of Sacramento 

Sulfur - This fire is mostly located on private land. The northern tip of Sulphur is on public land and offers several hundred acres at 1500 +/- with lots of roads. What it doesn't have is lots of trees. Difficult to determine if this is good habitat or not. It is NW of Sacramento on Clear Lake.

Redwood Valley - The northern tip of this fire has public access, but it looks to be a long drive in.  

Skeleton is a 55 acre fire near Thistle Glade Campground on the SE corner of Pillsbury Lake. Much of the fire has sparse cover, but,...

To access the rest of this post, with the top Nine Spots and their maps, please login below, or,  purchase our $39 Burn Morels Ebook that includes 2018 maps. 



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