Kruse Rhododendron Reserve
There are 55 miles of coastline in Sonoma County, most of it inaccessible. What is, however, is relatively unknown and pristine. People generally gravitate to either Marin or Mendocino coastlines. Kruse Rhododendron Reserve is actually east of Highway 1, 27 miles north of Jenner or 14 miles south of Gualala at the Mendocino border (locals call the whole area Mendonoma). There’s hardly anyone ever there.
We like the walk that encompasses both Phillips Gulch and Chinese Gulch trails. The area billboard at the parking spot says it’s a two-mile hike, but I’ve consistently clocked three miles on my pedometer. It’s a moderate walk in that there are lots of ups and downs.
At the parking lot, start the Phillips Gulch trail at the southeast corner of the lots. You’ll switchback downhill to the first dog-accessible creek. We are so fortunate to finally have water in our creeks during this 2014 drought. (Disclosure – the photos included in this post are from multiple walks in multiple weather conditions.) The really nice thing about this hike is that, although I would recommend hiking boots, the trail is well covered with foliage, and there are rare instances of heavy mud or slippery areas.
Continue across the bridge up the hill. You will reach a trail marker slightly more than 2/3 of a mile from the beginning of your route. Turn right. Another ~2/3 of a mile, you will hit the country road. Head straight across the road and up the hill. Add another 2/3 of a mile, and you’ll see the trail marker connecting Phillips Gulch Trail with Chinese Gulch Trail. Turn right. You’ll switchback down a hill and end up at the final dog-accessible creek, the best one in which they can romp, and refresh is the water is running well.
The trail continues up to the right. Don’t go down to the county road. The remaining walk up short hill is far more serene and natural. In the April May timeframe, there are beautiful Rhododendrons throughout the walk but most are located at the northside parking lot at the end of the hike. There is a nice, easy little walk around the part where the most Rhododendrons are visible.