East of Covelo, a spectacular setting of waterfalls, tanning rocks, and great water await you at one of California's least known but most impressive swimming holes. You'll need to walk for an hour to reach what Pancho Doll calls Rattlesnake Creek's "tiny precious gorge" in his "Day Trips With A Splash: The Swimming Holes Of California." Those who make the trek often go nude when they arrive. Pack water, wear hiking boots, and get ready for fun at this 20-foot tall, clothing-optional waterfall in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. Just be careful: rattlers live in the rocky canyon through which you'll be walking.
How to find it:
From Covelo, take Highway 338 east as it parallels the middle fork of the Eel River. At the Eel River Work Station in Mendocino National Forest, take M-1 north toward the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. Keep your eyes open for a bridge that crosses Rattlesnake Creek. Park near the bridge. On the south side of the road, near the back end of an undeveloped camping area, look for an unmarked path. Budget 30-to-60 minutes for the hike to the falls, which will take you past trees and down a gully. Follow the gully left to the water. At the creek, walk upstream until you come to the skinny-dipping hole and falls. Boots are recommended.
Instead of a beach, expect rocks and rocky ledges. But you'll have your own clothing-optional swimming hole and a beautiful waterfall.
Probably just you. Some visitors apparently stay overnight at the unsanctioned camping spot near the bridge.
Rocks and rocky ledges; trail unmarked; unknown legal status; and did we mention the snakes?