Russian Gulch State Park
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|Russian Gulch State Park is not a big park -- less than a mile from north to south, and about three miles east to west -- but it preserves almost completely intact a watershed that has had almost a century to recover from its last experience with logging. This deeply indented, steep sided little valley has several wonderful trails that can be strung together into a variety of loops and hearty walks. Here are some of our favorites:|
This is everyone's favorite, because there's an objective: a 36-foot high waterfall that runs almost all year long. Most folks start from the trailhead at the easternmost point of the Park's small campground.
The first 1.6 miles follows an old logging road beside the stream. At one time this road was paved, and even wheelchairs can negotiate this section. Bikes are also welcome on this section.
There's a bike rack and a rubbish bin at the end of the old road, and just a few paces farther, at the Lower Junction, three trails branch off. Most folks take the middle trail directly to the waterfall, about three quarters of a mile of somewhat more demanding trail to the foot of the waterfall. Even if you're walking the short round-trip to the Falls, it is worthwhile to walk to the top of the waterfall and look at the lovely canyon just above the waterfall.
To the waterfall and back is 4.8 miles, with a climb (and drop) of about 240 feet.
Just beyond the Junction, take the left trail up the side canyon. This trail runs along the southern branch of Russian Gulch stream to the edge of the Park, then switches back upslope to the tableland (a prehistoric beach) between the stream's branches where, in the Spring, rhododendrons grow riotously. The trail crosses this point and then drops steeply into the Gulch above the waterfall. At the Upper Junction, take the trail to the left (West) that leads, in a few hundred feet, to the top of the Waterfall. At the foot of a switchback, your trail becomes the Waterfall trail.
The signs say this trail is longer than it really is; we measure it at 1.7 miles from the lower junction to the lower junction above the falls. From the parking lot, the complete loop is about 5.7 miles, with a climb of 440 feet.
If you approach the waterfall from below and want to finish the loop clockwise, take the right-hand (uphill) trail at the junction above the falls.
Locals like to park at the end of the pavement on Road 409, which heads east from Highway One just south of the Caspar Creek bridge. The trail starts at Horse Camp and follows the Boundary Trail for a short distance, then follows a seasonal watercourse into the verdant upper reaches of Russian Gulch. Reaching the north fork of Russian Gulch's stream, it heads west, and joins the waterfall loop at the junction about the falls. It's just under a mile from Horse Camp to the falls.
From the junction, you may choose to head back uphill, and loop around clockwise to approach the waterfall from below, or turn right and continue along the stream to the falls.
Dogs are not welcome below the falls. Bikes are not welcome anywhere along this trail.
|This is the left hand trail that heads back up the Gulch's northern side from the lower junction. It reaches the forest on the bench above, where it winds through rhododendron and huckleberry thickets, then drops back down to the campground about an eighth of a mile west of the waterfall trailhead. For hearty walkers, the "super loop" that starts along the stream (1.6 miles) takes the right fork at the junction up the southern branch of the Gulch, across the highland, down past the waterfall, and then bears right at the junction, back up the north trail and thence back to the trailhead provides a great workout: 6.8 miles, and two invigorating hills each gaining then losing about 440 vertical feet.|
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