This lush preserve tucked into the hills above Fairfax is one of the true gems of the 504-acre Cascade Canyon Open Space in Marin County.
Cascade Falls, at the head of the main canyon, is a popular destination in winter and spring when flows are at their peak.
Even on a relatively short walk, one can traverse a wide variety of habitats and see an assortment of unusual native plants.
The canyons and lower slopes are sheltered by mixed broadleaf and evergreen forests above lush riparian corridors.
Nature lovers can find attractions here at any time of the year; birds and wildflowers in spring, mushrooms and ferns in winter and cool shaded retreats during even the hottest summer days.
The permanent water in the upper reaches of San Anselmo, Carey Camp, and Cascade creeks act as a wildlife magnet and provides some of the best steelhead spawning habitats in the county.
Most of the current preserve was once owned by Floyd Elliot, a former Mayor of the town of Fairfax.
This acreage was passed to the Marin County Open Space District in the early 1970’s. An additional 176 acres was donated later by the Ettinger family, who named the area’s most prominent feature (now known as Pam’s Blue Ridge) in honor of their daughter, Pamela.
From Highway 101 in Marin County, exit Sir Francis Drake/San Anselmo. Drive west on Sir Francis Drake about 5 miles to Fairfax. Turn left at a traffic light onto Pastori, and make an immediate right onto Broadway. Continue .3 miles to Bolinas Road, turn left, go .4 miles and bend right onto Cascade Fire Road. Continue half a mile to reach the very limited roadside parking area where the street dead ends at the preserve gate.
• Dogs are welcome but they must be leashed.
• Hours of operation: Sunrise to sunset
• Parking: Parking at all of the access points to Cascade Canyon is extremely limited, so please be careful to observe local ordinances when you visit.
• Fee: None
• Water: Bring your own
• Best time of year for this hike: Winter if you want to see the waterfall at its fullest.
• Degree of difficulty: Steep inclines, but short and easy.
• Distance: 1.2 miles