Gordon Gorge Trail
Area: South part of Smith River National Recreation Area.
Trail Length (one way): 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderately steep
Directions: Turn on South Fork Rd from Hwy 199. Travel 9.9 miles on South Fork Rd to trailhead.
Gordon Gorge trail is the perfect adventure for those who want great reward and a short distance to hike. If you are in search of solitude, swimming and sunbathing on a sunny summer day in the Smith River National Recreation Area or you seek that deep secretive fishing hole on a blustery winter afternoon; read on, this place is for you.
To find the trail from Highway 199, turn onto South Fork Road which travels into the center of Smith River National Recreation Area. The South Fork Road is a scenic wonder in itself, as it winds through the South Fork canyon with breathtaking peaks at the crystalline waters of the river below. The unbelievable aquamarine color of the water in the pools and riffles below the road will inspire you to press on. Enjoy one of the many pullouts to allow sightseeing from the river canyon edge. Even if the trail sign is missing from the trailhead of Gordon Gorge, the parking spot is easy to find, or at least easy to know when you’ve passed it because there is a very noticeable signed turn off to Rattlesnake Mountain on the opposite side of the road from the parking spot. The trailhead is right off the parking area and leads down a fairly steep, but short, narrow path with very little poison oak. Descending this trail is just enough exertion to get your blood flowing. Just before reaching the river, you will pass over a little unnamed creek. Remember this creek because it will be the star feature of the deep pool below.
As you reach the river, the trail spills out over water sculpted rock. Climb down the rocks to the downstream side to a sandy beach. This little pocket beach is the perfect picnic place for two. If you worked up a sweat on the walk down the next best thing to do is jump in while you’re still warm because the water in this section of the South Fork is a little chillier than the big swimming holes downstream. Even if you’re not too hot, the deep emerald blue colors of the pool are mesmerizing.
Rocks on the opposite bank are prominent sentinels rimming the deepest parts of the pool. Swimming just a little downstream in the big pool will give you the best view of that little stream from the trail as it careens over mossy boulders to create a waterfall tucked out of view from the trail and beach. Only those who brave the waters will be rewarded with a glimpse of its splendor. Below the waterfall, the pool grows shallow with a sandy bottom. It’s easy to climb out and creep under the waterfall for shower alongside the coral bells and maiden hair ferns.
This little hide-away is an easy respite from a hot day and the true goal of the Gordon Gorge Hike.
Gordon Gorge Swimming hole