“What do you want to see this weekend?” I ask the hubs. “A waterfall of course!” Our waterfall adventure began with a winding 2 hour drive from vineyards to redwoods and along the coast passing by the town of Mendocino to Russian Gulch State Park. Lucky for us no one was there yet so we had the trails all to ourselves! Or, so we thought.
The parking lot was empty. The beach was empty. The campground was empty. Just how we like it. We got our packs on and cameras ready and headed down the trail through the campground and along the creek flowing into the ocean. We had been down this trail at Russian Gulch 3 years ago, not much has changed since our last visit which is a good thing. All bundled up we walked along the muddy path dodging larger mud puddles and pausing in the rays of sunshine we would find. The warmth of the sunshine was so very welcome! I had forgotten how lush the Russian Gulch trail was. Ferns all over, a dense canopy of trees, and mother nature reclaiming what was once hers.
The hubs and I love having the trails to ourselves. It is refreshing for us and you get to take your time and fully soak in all that mother nature has to offer. The Russian Gulch trail is well maintained which makes for an easy hike. The California State Parks have done a wondeful job keeping this park easily accessible yet natural. Climbing over downed trees with steps cut into them and new trails were created to go around some downed trees where the root ball had taken out part of the trail. This is not a groomed trail but a nicely maintained trail.
Our hike back to the waterfall seemed short. It felt so intuitive like we knew where we were going (trail signs are great here!). The trail is a bit of an obstacle course with trees that have fallen. Duck under some, climb over some and walk through some of the trees. You will hear the sound of rushing water before you see the waterfall. All of that free falling water sounds amazing and instantly soothes the soul. We actually had the waterfall all to ourselves for about 15 minutes! We rested. We gathered our thoughts and relaxed. We enjoyed the moment. The Russian Gulch Waterfall is 36 feet tall and so energizing yet so peaceful. I am not sure if it’s the lushness of the surroundings that make you feel like you are getting a warm hug or just that feeling of all stress leaving you that makes it feel like all is good in the world.
After getting in our alone time with the waterfall we climbed up to the top of it (on the trail) and started to hike further up the creek. The last time we were here we took the North Trail, this time we followed the Falls Loop Trail. Highly recommend this trail! As we climbed up through the forest it became more and more spread out and we began to feel the breeze flowing through. Young and mature rhododendrons are sprinkled along the trail (must go back in late May to see them in bloom!), mushrooms line the path and downed trees are off to the side as you walk through the quietest part of Russian Gulch. We saw one tree that looked like it was struck by lightning since the stump was 5 feet away from where the tree fell down.
Reaching the canyon floor on long switchbacks we ended up back on the same trail we came in on. The hubs and I were hiking alongside the creek minding our own business and all of a sudden we heard splashing in the creek. We paused and looked over to find 4 salmon spawning!! It was so incredible to see this in nature! We must have stood there and watched this event for at least 5 minutes. Then as we headed back we kept looking in the creek for more salmon every time the trail came close to it. I bet these guys were stalking us as we hiked along the creek to the waterfall and we didn’t even know it! 🙂
After our hike we went into the cute town of Mendocino for lunch. I had the most delicious gluten free bread sandwich at The Goodlife Cafe. This is the second time we have eaten here and loved it both times!
Parking $8 or state parks pass, flushing toilets in the parking lot, 7ish miles, 200 ft elevation gain, no dogs. Nearest food area was the coastal town of Mendocino. We used the free maps at the kiosk as our guide.
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!
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