Dora Falls

Smithe Redwoods State Reserve / Legget / Piercy, California, USA

About Dora Falls


Hiking Distance: less than 1/4-mile round-trip scramble
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

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

Waterfall Latitude: 39.89914
Waterfall Longitude: -123.74996

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Dora Falls provided us with a chance to stop and break up the long drive up to Eureka from Santa Rosa, especially since it sat very close to the US101 right across from a popular redwood grove.

In our experiences, waterfalls so close to a highly-trafficked highway let alone a sightseeing attraction would typically be really crowded or wouldn’t be a great waterfalling attraction.

Dora_Falls_039_11202020 - Dora Falls with surprisingly decent Autumn flow
Dora Falls with surprisingly decent Autumn flow

I also had read from my Ann Marie Brown book that it had a very short season (i.e. December through May) so it was likely not going to flow this late into November.

However, my lowered expectations for this waterfall were far exceeded when I just decided to check it out (successful or not), and that was when I saw it with pretty good flow as you can see in the photo above.

Furthermore, I actually got to experience Dora Falls all by myself even though many people unknowingly drove by this hidden spot on the US101.

Even more amazing was that of those people that did stop in the parking area across the highway, they only did so to check out the redwood trees of the Frank and Bess Smithe Redwood Grove.

Dora_Falls_100_11202020 - Julie and Tahia checking out the impressive redwood trees at the Frank and Bess Smithe Redwood Grove
Julie and Tahia checking out the impressive redwood trees at the Frank and Bess Smithe Redwood Grove

None of them bothered with Dora Falls during our visit, and thus I had a surprisingly restorative and peaceful experience at this seemingly obscure waterfall.

Finding Dora Falls

From the parking spaces at the Frank and Bess Smithe Redwood Grove on the west side of the US101 (see directions below), I then crossed the highway when it was safe.

Once I made it to the road shoulder on the east side of the highway, I then hopped the bridge railing on the south side of Dora Creek (which appeared to be flowing due to water coming out of a tubular tunnel).

I then followed a faint and overgrown use-trail for around five minutes or so (roughly a quarter-mile round-trip) before the use-trail led me to the secluded cove containing Dora Falls.

Dora_Falls_020_11202020 - Following the overgrown use-trail upstream towards the hidden Dora Falls
Following the overgrown use-trail upstream towards the hidden Dora Falls

At that point, I was able to scramble a little further to descend right to the waterfall’s base where I managed to stand right in front of the 30ft waterfall.

Apparently, this was once a 60ft waterfall when a landslide filled in this cove back in 1978.

I definitely saw evidence of some sort of landslide or disturbance as I stood in front of Dora Falls.

In fact, I suspected that maybe the tube that took the outflow of Dora Creek had been put there to allow its waters to channel underneath the debris from that landslide in the first place.

As far as the waterfall’s flow, I was aware that two days prior to our visit, the area had gotten some rain so perhaps that had something to do with its surprisingly vigorous performance.

The Frank and Bess Smithe Grove

Dora_Falls_002_11202020 - This stump with a walkthrough tunnel used to be the entrance to the restaurant at Lane's Redwood Flat before it was destroyed by fire in the 1930s
This stump with a walkthrough tunnel used to be the entrance to the restaurant at Lane’s Redwood Flat before it was destroyed by fire in the 1930s

According to our Ann Marie Brown book, the grove that we had parked at was once Lane’s Redwood Flat, which was a 1920s resort containing a museum, restaurant, and some cabins.

I had noticed that there was a large redwood tree stump with a tunnel that you can walk through, and apparently that used to be the restaurant’s entrance.

A fire in the 1930s destroyed the establishment, and eventually the state bought out the land then incorporated it into the Smithe Redwoods State Reserve.

During our visit, this reserve featured giant redwoods with made for a nice opportunity for a photo op, which most visitors we saw that stopped here (us included) took advantage of.

Dora_Falls_010_11202020 - Looking towards the South Fork Eel River flowing calmly besides the US101 and the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove during our November 2020 visit
Looking towards the South Fork Eel River flowing calmly besides the US101 and the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove during our November 2020 visit

Some use-trails descended from the attractive redwood grove towards the South Fork Eel River, which was flowing quietly while yielding hints of some Autumn colors during our visit.

Authorities

Dora Falls resides in the Smithe Redwoods State Reserve near Leggett in Mendocino County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

US101_North_013_iPhone_11202020 - One way to tell if you zoom past the Frank and Bess Smithe Redwood Grove is if you happen to start seeing rockslide-prone cliffs as the scenery momentarily shifts from redwoods while driving north on the US101 beyond Leggett
Dora_Falls_003_11202020 - Signage acknowledging that we were at the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove
Dora_Falls_006_11202020 - Context of some of the short walking trails among the redwoods of the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove
Dora_Falls_009_11202020 - The short use-trails at the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove led to the South Fork Eel River
Dora_Falls_011_11202020 - Looking back at the context of the parking area and the US101 as seen from within the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove
Dora_Falls_014_11202020 - Tall redwood trees that provided the reason for the dedication of the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove
Dora_Falls_015_11202020 - Looking across the US101 towards the small bridge over Dora Creek
Dora_Falls_016_11202020 - Following along the east side of the US101 towards the bridge traversing Dora Creek
Dora_Falls_017_11202020 - Looking back at the context of the parking area for the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove from the bridge over Dora Creek
Dora_Falls_018_11202020 - Water coming out of the tin tunnel that was Dora Creek was a good sign that Dora Falls should be flowing
Dora_Falls_022_11202020 - After hopping the Dora Creek Bridge's railings, I had to get through some overgrown sections of the faint use-trail leading me further upstream
Dora_Falls_023_11202020 - This was a stretch of more open terrain along the use-trail leading upstream along Dora Creek from the US101
Dora_Falls_024_11202020 - Closeup look at some interesting vegetation growing alongside the faint use-trail to Dora Falls
Dora_Falls_025_11202020 - Approaching the secluded Dora Falls as it was fronted by attractive Fall Colors
Dora_Falls_036_11202020 - Looking at the full drop of Dora Falls from the right side of its landslide-prone cove
Dora_Falls_049_11202020 - Semi-long-exposed shot of Dora Falls from the right side of its landslide-prone cove
Dora_Falls_061_11202020 - More direct look at Dora Falls flanked by yellowing leaves in late November during my visit
Dora_Falls_079_11202020 - Semi-long-exposed look at Dora Falls from right at its small plunge pool at its base
Dora_Falls_086_11202020 - After having my fill of Dora Falls, it was time to face the overgrown use-trail and scramble back towards the US101
Dora_Falls_092_11202020 - Returning to the road bridge of the US101 going past Dora Creek
Dora_Falls_106_11202020 - After returning to the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove, I got this look up towards the tops of the majestic redwood trees there


The key to finding Dora Falls was to find the parking area for the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove in the Smithe Redwoods State Reserve.

We managed to get here by driving north on the US101, where we continued for about 4 miles north of the turnoff for the Hwy 1 by the community of Leggett.

Dora_Falls_001_11202020 - Context of the parking area for the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove on the west side of the US101 Highway
Context of the parking area for the Frank and Bess Smithe Grove on the west side of the US101 Highway

The parking area that we stopped at was on the left side of the US101 just before the small road bridge traversing Dora Creek.

If you happen to see a turnoff as well as signage for Confusion Hill, then you went too far.

For geographical context, Leggett was 44 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Fort Bragg, about 53 miles (over 90 minutes drive) north of Mendocino, 45 miles (under an hour drive) north of Willits, 90 miles (about 1.5 hours drive) south of Eureka, 127 miles (over 2 hours drive) northwest of Santa Rosa, and 181 miles (over 3 hours drive) north of San Francisco.

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Left to right sweep of the falls from the base of a landslide providing some context of this secluded and hidden spot.


Long sweep starting from the right side of the creek then making my way down to the creek for a direct look before crossing the creek and getting a more angled look at the falls.


Checking out the falls from the left side of the creek, then descending to the creek by the tube for a direct sweep.

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Tagged with: legget, piercy, mendocino, us101, frank and bess smithe grove, smithe redwoods state reserve, california, waterfall



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