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Cataract Falls - Mt. Tamalpais

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Excellent hike along Cataract Creek and seven pretty waterfalls
Near:Fairfax, CA
Distance:2.6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:1050 ft
Hike Time:2 hours
Trail Condition:Well maintained trail
HikeType:Out and Back

Summary: Cataract Falls actually consists of about 7 separate cascade along Cataract Creek. They are all in the neighbourhood of 30 ft. to 60 ft., and are all quite different and quite impressive when Cataract Creek is flowing well. The best time to see these waterfalls is after a good rain. If it hasn't rained in a while, Cataract Creek will probably just be a little trickle.

The hike is an absolutely gorgeous hike along the creek through a forest of Redwoods. You are never far away from the next waterfall as you climb up and past the rushing creek. It is non-stop excitement, but takes quite awhile to complete this hike because you are always stopping to look at the waterfalls and take pictures.

For more info and pictures, see my website.

Trailhead: Take Hwy #101 to San Rafael, and take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd. exit. Drive 6 miles to Fairfax, and turn left on Pacheco Rd. Take an immediate right on Broadway, then first left on Bolinas Rd. Drive 7.8 miles to Alpine Lake, and park at the hairpin turn just after crossing the dam. Parking is limited. The trailhead is on the left at the hairpin turn.

Alternatively, you can park at the other end of the trail, on West Ridgecrest Blvd. at the Laurel Dell picnic area. From the Mill Valley / Stinson Beach / Hwy #1 exit on Hwy #101 north of San Francisco, drive 1 mile to Shoreline Hwy. Turn left and drive 2.5 miles to Panoramic Hwy. Turn right and drive 5.2 miles to Pantoll Rd. Turn right and drive 1.4 miles to Ridgecrest Rd. Turn left and drive 1.6 miles to a small parking area on right. The trail is marked "Laurel Dell". (Lat:37.9365 Lon:-122.63774)

Trail Guides for Cataract Falls - Mt. Tamalpais:
California Waterfalls
by Ann Marie Brown  (Foghorn Outdoors)

California Hiking
by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown  (Foghorn Outdoors)

Hiking Marin
by Don and Kay Martin  (Martin Press)

Best Seasons: Winter,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs,
Ranger Contact: Marin Municipal Water District, (415) 945-1195
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Leon Turnbull, who has posted  17 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 3   Submit your own review
Reviewed by Keith on 8/4/2014
Nice hike for early August. The water flow at the falls was slow but nice none the lease. My GPS said the trip from Rock Spring parking lot to the largest of the falls was 5 miles. The trail conditions are well maintained. There is a lot of poison OAK so be prepared. All in all it was a good moderate.

Reviewed by Brian on 8/5/2012
My friend and I had never even heard of Cataract, but we decided to go in early August. The falls were little more than a trickle, but beautiful and fun to see anyway. The hike is labled "moderate" but climbing the stairs was pretty tough on this novice hiker. There were enough runners and older folks to make me feel way out of shape. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Reviewed by Jennifer on 4/16/2012
this is a veery nice picture what kind of camera do use¿

Reviewed by Arvind on 5/4/2011
I would be in S.F in a couple of weeks. I'm an avid photographer from Canada. I would like to photograph the Cataract falls. I have a couple of questions for Mike (who visited the falls just last week). 1. Which time of the day is best to photograph? 2. Are there enough water in the falls or is it just a small trickle (since it has been sunny in S.F) 3. Could you please share your photos? Thanks, Arvind 3.

Reviewed by Mike on 5/2/2011
I went on this hike early Saturday morning 4/30/11 to photograph the waterfalls. Great weather, beautiful sites, and great photos. I had the whole place to myself.

Reviewed by sylvain on 4/15/2011
A hushful wondrous encounter with Nature. On our journey thro' the mist, we encountered a contemplative squirrel, contemplating a newfound nut on a stump. About him the Woods whispered for us to hush and watch this Child of the Wild. Later, atop the mountain, we heard the wind whistle through the grasses. A marvelous day!

Reviewed by odj on 4/11/2010
It's pouring rain today, and I couldn't think of a better place to hike that Cataract Falls. It was my first time up there, and it was well worth it, the falls were absolutely spectacular. I will go back!

Reviewed by Craig on 11/13/2009
This hike was lush with ferns, and even without recent rain the falls still added a great ambiance and focal point to the hike. It was an excellent use of the only open morning I had on my trip to SF. Thanks Leon!

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: California Hiking, California Trails, California Hikes, Marin County Hiking, Marin County Trails, Marin County Hikes

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