Rattlesnake Creek

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Rating: C

One of California's "secret" nude swimming holes, located in a jewel-like setting of waterfalls, tanning rocks, and great water, requires up to an hour's walk to reach. But once you arrive, you may be rewarded with your own, private nude beach. Those who make the journey to Rattlesnake Creek often go nude once they arrive. Tips: 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 past Covelo. Rattlers really do live in the rocky, brush-strewn canyon through which you'll be walking. But, says Pancho Doll, in Day Trips With A Splash: The Swimming Holes Of California, it's worth the trek because it will bring you to "a tiny precious gorge" with the shimmering falls and swim hole.

Unknown.

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.

The beach:

Instead of a real beach, expect rocks and rocky ledges. But you'll have your own clothing-optional swimming hole and a beautiful waterfall.

The crowd:

Undoubtedly just you. Some visitors apparently stay overnight at the unsanctioned camping spot near the bridge.

Problems:

Rocks and rocky ledges; trail unmarked; unknown legal status; and did we mention the snakes?

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