About Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
The Chamberlain Creek Waterfall (also Chamberlain Creek Falls or just Chamberlain Falls) was a rather hidden and secluded 50ft waterfall deep within the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
Situated between Willits and Fort Bragg, this waterfall exposed us to a quieter and more subtle aspect of the Mendocino Coast as compared with the drama of its Big Sur-like coastal scenery.
Perhaps even exceeding my own lowered expectations of visiting a waterfall on the California Coast in late November was that it was actually flowing!
While the photo you see above shows the Chamberlain Falls in rather low flow, at least it wasn’t dry as I’ve come to associate California waterfalls and the Autumn season as a bit of an oxymoron.
Our adventure to experience this waterfall involved driving on a twisty highway deep into the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
Then, we took an unpaved logging road towards the trailhead though we had to do this without any signage nor other visual aids while driving.
Indeed, we had to do our pre-trip research to even have a chance at successfully finding it.
That said, when we finally find the trailhead (see directions below), we enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of being in an old growth forest without another person nearby.
Heck, on the cool, crisp morning of our visit in late November 2020, we even heard our own voices echo in the distance. How’s that for social distancing?
Experiencing the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
From the wooden railings at the trailhead, we then descended a few flights of steps with a sign indicating the “Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail” (so we knew we were in the right place).
Once we got to the bottom of the steps, we then embarked on a descending narrow trail that weaved between ferns and tall redwoods.
Many of these redwoods had blackened trunks so I’m sure they’ve seen (and survived) a fire or two over their history.
However, the presence of ferns also suggested that this part of the Mendocino Coast would typically experience a lot of moisture in the form of rain or persistent mist from coastal fog.
Following the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail was pretty straightforward for us though I did notice some false trails that might have been the former route.
I’d imagine that the trail must have been re-routed to prevent further erosion on the steep hillside on the old route.
Anyways, after about a quarter-mile from the trailhead, we were on the forest floor where it seemed that not a whole lot of sunlight actually made it down here given the thick forest canopy.
It was in this area that we finally arrived at the Chamberlain Creek Falls, where an easy crossing of Chamberlain Creek allowed us to get right at its base (for that shot of the waterfall juxtaposed with redwoods).
We were content to turn back here and ascend back up to the trailhead for a half-mile round-trip walk, but we could have extended this hike on a longer “Waterfall Trail” that would have deposited us further north on the West Chamberlain Road.
Overall, we took our time and spent about 45 minutes away from the car though it could have been done in as little as 20-30 minutes.
The Chamberlain Creek Waterfall resides in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest near Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or the Save the Redwoods site.
Both towns are connected by the Hwy 20, which was a twisty two-lane highway that cut right through the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
This is the highway that leads to the Mountain Road 200 (MR-200), which is around the half-way point between the two towns.
We did this drive from the US101, where we left the highway near Willits, and then followed the Hwy 20 for about 15.5 miles (roughly 30 minutes) to the MR-200 turnoff.
Note that this turnoff was not well-signed so we had to know not to cross the bridge over Chamberlain Creek. We also took the unsigned turnoff just east of the turnoff leading to the Chamberlain Creek Camp.
Once on the MR-200 (Main Chamberlain Road), which was an unpaved logging road, we then drove about 1.2 miles before turning left onto the West Chamberlain Road.
From there, we drove about 3.3 miles on the West Chamberlain Road, which led us to a wooden railing that was next to the road (roughly 15 minutes drive after leaving the Hwy 20).
This railing was where the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead was located, and this was where we stopped the car.
Note that there wasn’t a lot of real-estate to park the car, but we still managed to park enough off the road to not block traffic (not that there was that much traffic to begin with anyways).
Finally, had we driven to the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall from Fort Bragg, we would have driven about 17.5 miles east on the Hwy 20 before turning left onto the MR-200 just after the bridge over Chamberlain Creek.
Overall, this drive should take around 45 minutes or so from either Fort Bragg or Willits.
For geographical context, Fort Bragg was about 10 miles (15 minutes drive) north of Mendocino, 35 miles (about 55 minutes drive) west of Willits, 117 miles (over 2 hours drive) northwest of Santa Rosa, 133 miles (nearly 3 hours drive) south of Eureka, and 164 miles (nearly 3.5 hours drive) north of San Francisco.
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