Chamberlain Creek Waterfall

Jackson Demonstration State Forest / Fort Bragg / Willits, California, USA

About Chamberlain Creek Waterfall


Hiking Distance: about 1/2-mile round-trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-11-20
Date last visited: 2020-11-20

Waterfall Latitude: 39.40154
Waterfall Longitude: -123.57821

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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.

Chamberlain_Falls_116_11202020 - Chamberlain Creek Waterfall in low Autumn flow
Chamberlain Creek Waterfall in low Autumn flow

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_102_11202020 - Broad view looking right up from the base of the Chamberlain Creek Falls backed by some redwoods in late November 2020
Broad view looking right up from the base of the Chamberlain Creek Falls backed by some redwoods in late November 2020

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).

Chamberlain_Falls_010_11202020 - Julie and Tahia descending the initial steps leading us deep into the old growth forest surrounding Chamberlain Creek
Julie and Tahia descending the initial steps leading us deep into the old growth forest surrounding Chamberlain Creek

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_043_11202020 - Julie and Tahia hiking among towering redwoods at the floor of the old growth forest along the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Julie and Tahia hiking among towering redwoods at the floor of the old growth forest along the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_046_11202020 - Julie and Tahia approaching the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
Julie and Tahia approaching the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall

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.

Authorities

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_002_iPhone_11202020 - On the unpaved Road 200 shortly after leaving Hwy 20 as we headed towards Chamberlain Creek Falls
Chamberlain_Falls_001_11202020 - This was the railing that marked the trailhead for the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_005_11202020 - Looking back at the context of the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead and our parked minivan
Chamberlain_Falls_006_11202020 - The sign below the first flight of steps indicated to us that indeed we were in the right place
Chamberlain_Falls_012_11202020 - Someone left this pair of women's dress boots behind by the steps, which seemed rather out-of-place by the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_016_11202020 - Julie and Tahia continuing to descend the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail after getting past the initial steps
Chamberlain_Falls_019_11202020 - Ferns by the Chamberlain Creek Falls Trail indicated to us that this was a high moisture area
Chamberlain_Falls_025_11202020 - Julie and Tahia still descending some parts of the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail that appeared to have been re-routed perhaps for erosion-control purposes
Chamberlain_Falls_028_11202020 - Julie and Tahia walking by some impressive-looking redwood trees alongside the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_030_11202020 - Still more steps to descend along the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_033_11202020 - Down at the base of the descent, we found ourselves at the forest floor where sunlight hardly made its way here yet we also stood next to giant redwood trees
Chamberlain_Falls_039_11202020 - Julie and Tahia going over this fallen redwood tree where they carved out steps to make the traverse easier
Chamberlain_Falls_044_11202020 - Julie and Tahia walking beneath more fallen redwood trees that still managed to not become obstacles on the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_049_11202020 - Julie and Tahia making it to the base of the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
Chamberlain_Falls_071_11202020 - Looking at the full drop of the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall from across Chamberlain Creek
Chamberlain_Falls_096_11202020 - Looking up at Chamberlain Creek Falls from its base with some fir and redwood trees beside it
Chamberlain_Falls_113_11202020 - Plaque devoted to Eric Swanson, which was situated across from the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
Chamberlain_Falls_118_11202020 - As we started to walk back up to the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead, we saw that the morning sun's rays were trying to penetrate the dark forest floor
Chamberlain_Falls_119_11202020 - Still looking at the morning sun seemingly trying to shine through pinhole-like openings in the forest canopy along the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_120_11202020 - Looking up towards the forest canopy from the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trail
Chamberlain_Falls_124_11202020 - Serene and peaceful hiking on our morning visit to and from the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall
Chamberlain_Falls_125_11202020 - This was a brief upside down hike to the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall so we had to gain back the elevation loss to return to the trailhead
Chamberlain_Falls_135_11202020 - Approaching the final ascent to regain the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead


There are a couple of ways to drive to the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall – one from Fort Bragg and another from Willits.

Both towns are connected by the Hwy 20, which was a twisty two-lane highway that cut right through the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Hwy20_to_Chamberlain_Falls_009_iPhone_11202020 - Driving west on the twisty Hwy 20 towards Chamberlain Creek Falls
Driving west on the twisty Hwy 20 towards Chamberlain Creek Falls

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_003_iPhone_11202020 - On the unpaved logging roads leading towards the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead
On the unpaved logging roads leading towards the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead

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.

Chamberlain_Falls_140_11202020 - Context of the wooden railing at the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead and our parked minivan
Context of the wooden railing at the Chamberlain Creek Waterfall Trailhead and our parked minivan

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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Sweep from across the waterfall before descending right to its base to do another sweep from down there.

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Tagged with: jackson demonstration state forest, fort bragg, willits, mendocino, comptche, waterfall grove trail, california, waterfall



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