Interleukin 17-producing T helper cells (T(H)-17 cells) are important in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, but their route of entry into the central nervous system (CNS) and their contribution relative to that of other effector T cells remain to be determined. Here we found that mice lacking CCR6, a chemokine receptor characteristic of T(H)-17 cells, developed T(H)-17 responses but were highly resistant to the induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Disease susceptibility was reconstituted by transfer of wild-type T cells that entered into the CNS before disease onset and triggered massive CCR6-independent recruitment of effector T cells across activated parenchymal vessels. The CCR6 ligand CCL20 was constitutively expressed in epithelial cells of choroid plexus in mice and humans. Our results identify distinct molecular requirements and ports of lymphocyte entry into uninflamed versus inflamed CNS and suggest that the CCR6-CCL20 axis in the choroid plexus controls immune surveillance of the CNS.