Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls

Despite its strenuous nature, the 2.6-mile round trip to Cataract Falls on the north slope of Mount Tamalpais is definitely not the road less traveled.

This hike is very popular on weekends, when at times every other hiker seems to be accompanied by a canine companion.

Pack plenty of drinking water, some high-carb snacks and a hearty lunch to pay back the sweat equity you’ll earn while climbing 750 feet up a wooded ravine to the wide-open Laurel Dell Picnic Area.

The series of falls along Cataract Creek gush spectacularly after a heavy rain, but that also means mud, so watch your step.

The Cataract Falls Trail is one of many “love ’em and leash ’em” dog-trails available to hikers within the Marin Municipal Water District.

• Distance: About 2.6 miles round trip
• Level: Moderate to strenuous
• Parking: Free but not always easy to find.
• Tip: Cut your distance in half by setting up two cars in a shuttle, one at the lower trailhead, the other at the Laurel Dell trailhead.

From Highway 101 in San Rafael, Marin County, take the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard exit and follow it about 6 miles to Fairfax. Turn left on Pacheco, make an immediate right on Broadway and go left at the next block on Bolinas Road. Continue about 8 miles and watch for Alpine Lake and dam. Cross the dam and park the side of the road just before a sharp hairpin turn. The trailhead is on the left.

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