Russian Gulch Waterfall

Russian Gulch State Park / Mendocino / Caspar, California, USA

About Russian Gulch Waterfall


Hiking Distance: 2.8 miles round-trip
Suggested Time: 1-2 hours

Date first visited: 2020-11-22
Date last visited: 2020-11-22

Waterfall Latitude: 39.33228
Waterfall Longitude: -123.76273

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Russian Gulch Falls (or Russian Gulch Waterfall) was a well-known and popular waterfall near both Mendocino and Fort Bragg.

Sitting in Russian Gulch State Park, this 35ft waterfall was pretty well-known and popular, especially since the state park featured other scenic features like sea arches, blowholes, beaches, and even a fern canyon of its own.

Russian_Gulch_105_11222020 - The Russian Gulch Waterfall deep within Russian Gulch State Park
The Russian Gulch Waterfall deep within Russian Gulch State Park

As you can see in the photo above, we happened to see it in low Autumn flow.

However, I’ve seen photos in the literature where Russian Gulch Creek can expand the waterfall and drape over a wider area of its underlying rock face.

Maybe one of these days, we’ll come back during a more lush season to really see the falls take on a different form.

Hiking Options for the Russian Gulch Waterfall

It turned out that there were multiple ways to experience the Russian Gulch Waterfall – a long way and a short way.

Russian_Gulch_147_11222020 - Julie and Tahia on the redwood and fern-rich trails within Russian Gulch State Park
Julie and Tahia on the redwood and fern-rich trails within Russian Gulch State Park

Because the Fern Canyon on Russian Creek was closed during our late November 2020 visit, we didn’t bother doing the longer 6-mile round-trip hike from the official western entrance of the reserve near Hwy 1.

Had we been able and willing to go that route, we could have done any number of routes to fully experience all Russian Gulch State Park had to offer, including its own Fern Canyon.

The western side of the reserve also featured other scenic attractions like a sink hole, a blowhole, sea arches, and even a beach so this excursion could easily be extended to take a whole day.

Instead, we opted to do a much shorter 2.8-mile round-trip out-and-back hike that started from the Caspar-Little Lake Road on the eastern end of Russian Gulch State Park.

Russian_Gulch_008_11222020 - Beyond the first gate on the North Boundary Trail, this was the second gate about 400 feet later
Beyond the first gate on the North Boundary Trail, this was the second gate about 400 feet later

And that’s how we’ll describe this waterfall excursion.

The Shortest Trail to the Russian Gulch Waterfall

From North Boundary Trail at the eastern end of Russian Gulch State Park (see directions below), we went past a gate and followed the wide road or trail for about 400ft.

Then, we encountered another gate just past a fork in the road, which marked the official entry into Russian Gulch State Park.

So we continued past this second gate and followed the straight-shot North Boundary Trail for another 0.2-mile before reaching a signed trail junction with the Waterfall Trail on the left.

Russian_Gulch_016_11222020 - This signed junction was where we deviated from the North Boundary Trail and went onto the Waterfall Trail towards the Russian Gulch Falls
This signed junction was where we deviated from the North Boundary Trail and went onto the Waterfall Trail towards the Russian Gulch Falls

Thus, we deviated from the North Boundary Trail and then proceeded to follow the much narrower and more lush Waterfall Trail, which descended as it made a couple of bends into a forest full of redwood trees and ferns.

We pretty much persisted along this descending and well-forested trail for another 0.6-mile before the trail reached what appeared to be a fork with a false trail.

While we knew to keep right at this fork, it seemed like more than a few people managed to keep going straight into that false trail (which I knew not where it went since we didn’t take it).

At this point, the trail pretty much followed Russian Gulch Creek as it eventually reached another trail junction in another 1/4-mile or so.

Russian_Gulch_Waterfall_006_iPhone_11222020 - This was where the Russian Gulch Waterfall Trail veered to the right just as there was a false trail that continued straight ahead to the left of this picture
This was where the Russian Gulch Waterfall Trail veered to the right just as there was a false trail that continued straight ahead to the left of this picture

At this junction, we kept right to descend towards the top of the Russian Gulch Falls before it made the final descent to the footbridge fronting the waterfall itself.

Had we gone left at the junction, it would have taken us on the Fern Canyon Trail, which can also loop back towards the Russian Gulch Waterfall or continue further to the west right into the depths of the canyon.

Anyways, when we reached the brink of Russian Gulch Falls at about 0.1-mile from the junction, it reminded me of the Silver Falls part of the Big Basin hike near Santa Cruz, which also did the same thing.

Of course, Russian Gulch Falls was significantly shorter and busier so the atmosphere here was quite a bit different.

Russian_Gulch_039_11222020 - Towards the bottom of the descent to the Russian Gulch Falls, we were surrounded by giant coastal redwood trees as the trail went alongside Russian Gulch Creek
Towards the bottom of the descent to the Russian Gulch Falls, we were surrounded by giant coastal redwood trees as the trail went alongside Russian Gulch Creek

Once we made it to the footbridge fronting Russian Gulch Falls, we got to experience its main segment on the right side.

However, all the fallen redwoods here and overgrowth made it tricky to take an all-encompassing shot of the waterfall’s context unless I continued hiking on the trail as it ascended past the other side of the footbridge for a more elevated perspective.

Indeed, given the myriad of ways to even reach this waterfall, we definitely had to share this spot with dozens of people during our visit (not ideal from a social distancing standpoint).

And when we finally had our fill of the Russian Gulch Waterfall, we then hiked back up towards the east entrance by the Caspar-Little Lake Road.

Russian_Gulch_130_11222020 - Viewing the Russian Gulch Falls from the footbridge over Russian Gulch Creek
Viewing the Russian Gulch Falls from the footbridge over Russian Gulch Creek

Overall, this upside-down 2.8-mile return hike took us a leisurely two hours, which we enjoyed because it was serene enough for us to have a nice chat while experiencing all the benefits of being in the moment in the best of the Mendocino Coast’s nature.

Authorities

Russian Gulch Falls (or Russian Gulch Waterfall) resides in Russian Gulch State Park near Mendocino 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.

Russian_Gulch_012_11222020 - Julie and Tahia hiking on the North Boundary Trail from the Caspar-Little Lake Road towards the Waterfall Trail
Russian_Gulch_015_11222020 - Tahia and Julie walking between some redwood trees while going along the North Boundary Trail towards the Waterfall Trail junction
Russian_Gulch_019_11222020 - After leaving the North Boundary Trail we then hiked along the Waterfall Trail, which immediately put us in a forested grove as the trail descended deeper towards the Russian Gulch
Russian_Gulch_021_11222020 - Julie and Tahia continuing the descent deeper into Russian Gulch in pursuit of the Russian Gulch Waterfall
Russian_Gulch_030_11222020 - Julie and Tahia still descending deeper into Russian Gulch State Park as redwoods and ferns became more prevalent around us
Russian_Gulch_040_11222020 - After getting past the bend with the false trail, we then pretty much followed the Russian Gulch Creek downstream to the waterfall
Russian_Gulch_044_11222020 - Julie and Tahia crossing over a footbridge over Russian Gulch Creek as we were getting closer to the Russian Gulch Waterfall
Russian_Gulch_046_11222020 - Keeping right at this fork to descend to the Russian Gulch Waterfall
Russian_Gulch_048_11222020 - Now following along the Russian Gulch Creek from the other side of the creek
Russian_Gulch_051_11222020 - Looking down over the brink of Russian Gulch Falls towards the footbridge and trail down below
Russian_Gulch_055_11222020 - Julie and Tahia making the final descent towards the base of the Russian Gulch Waterfall
Russian_Gulch_064_11222020 - Looking directly at the main segment of the Russian Gulch Waterfall from the footbridge over Russian Gulch Creek
Russian_Gulch_070_11222020 - Portrait view of the Russian Gulch Waterfall as seen from the footbridge right across from it
Russian_Gulch_085_11222020 - Broader look at the Russian Gulch Waterfall revealing a second segment towards the left side
Russian_Gulch_087_11222020 - Contextual look at the Russian Gulch Falls with footbridge over the Russian Gulch Creek and some people taking pictures around it
Russian_Gulch_096_11222020 - Elevated top down view of the Russian Gulch Falls with footbridge and some onlookers
Russian_Gulch_124_11222020 - Another juxtaposition of the footbridge with the Russian Gulch Waterfall
Russian_Gulch_140_11222020 - Last look over the brink of Russian Gulch Falls before we headed back up to the trailhead
Russian_Gulch_145_11222020 - Now that we had to hike uphill to regain the trailhead after having had our fill of Russian Gulch Falls, we observed that the canyon we were in was very lush
Russian_Gulch_160_11222020 - Julie and Tahia continuing their ascent back up along the Waterfall Trail towards the North Boundary Trail
Russian_Gulch_162_11222020 - Julie and Tahia finally making it back to the North Boundary Trail
Russian_Gulch_168_11222020 - Julie and Tahia going around this puddle, which made me believe that Mendocino must have seen some recent rains before our visit in late November 2020
Russian_Gulch_170_11222020 - Finally making it back to the Caspar-Little Lake Road to end our hike to the Russian Gulch Waterfall


I’ll describe how we drove to the Russian Gulch Waterfall’s Trailhead from Fort Bragg since that was how we did it.

We easily could come here from Mendocino since they’re both valid starting points for the short drive to reach the trailhead.

Russian_Gulch_002_11222020 - Looking back at the paved part of Caspar-Little Lake Road from the eastern entrance to the North Boundary Trail in Russian Gulch State Park
Looking back at the paved part of Caspar-Little Lake Road from the eastern entrance to the North Boundary Trail in Russian Gulch State Park

Anyways, from roundabout at the southern end of Fort Bragg, we headed south on the Hwy 1 for nearly 4 miles before turning left onto the Caspar-Little Lake Road (Road 409).

Then, we followed the Caspar-Little Lake Road for the next 3.3 miles to the end of the paved part of the Road 409 where we looked for parking on the road shoulder.

The North Boundary Trail’s gate was just nearby where the Road 409 became unpaved.

Overall, this drive only took us about 10 minutes or so.

Had we driven up from Mendocino, then we’d only have to drive roughly 3.5 miles north of the traffic light with Little Lake Road before turning right onto the Caspar-Little Lake Road.

Russian_Gulch_001_11222020 - The gate facing the Caspar-Little Lake Road on the North Boundary Trail's east side, which marked the trailhead for the shortest trail to the Russian Gulch Waterfall
The gate facing the Caspar-Little Lake Road on the North Boundary Trail’s east side, which marked the trailhead for the shortest trail to the Russian Gulch Waterfall

Then, we’d follow this road as described above for roughly 3.3 miles before looking for parking on the road shoulder near the North Boundary Trail’s east entrance.

Note that as of our November 2020 visit, we didn’t have to pay any state park fees to park at this trailhead.

However, if we parked on the western side of Russian Gulch State Park, then we’d likely have to pay the state park fees at an entry kiosk.

I can’t say more about driving to that side of the park since we didn’t do it, but I’m keen to augment this page once we’re finally able to exercise that option.

For geographical context, Fort Bragg was 10 miles (15 minutes drive) north of Mendocino, 35 miles (an hour drive) north of Willits, 43 miles (under 90 minutes drive) south of Leggett, 141 miles (3 hours drive) south of Arcata, 110 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) northwest of Santa Rosa, and 164 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) north of San Francisco.

Find A Place To Stay



Booking.com

Long video starting from the top of the falls before descending to the footbridge fronting the falls.


Higher vantage of the waterfall before positioning over to a more frontal view of its entire width in low flow.

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Booking.com


Tagged with: russian gulch, mendocino coast, mendocino, fort bragg, california, waterfall, caspar



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls


The Process of How I Earn Income Sharing My Passion Through Lived Experiences

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.