About Dora Falls
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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