Cataract Falls in Marin County is probably the best-known waterfall in the Bay Area, and for good reason. It gets really big after a spring rain, sprouting up to nine silvery cascades, some more than 50 feet high, plunging purposefully down the Cataract Creek streambed. The surrounding forest, with its moss- and lichen-covered rocks, ferny ground cover, gnarly oaks and sentinel redwoods, can seem an enchanted place, especially just after a rain.
Though just 2.6 miles round trip, the Cataract Falls Trail has a 750-foot elevation gain over the span of a mile. The unrelenting grade will having you stopping more than once to catch your breath, give your dog a pat, admire the raging stream and deplete your cell-phone battery taking pictures. Wooden stairs ease the climb in several places, but you’ll still have to scramble over stray roots and boulders. The Laurel Dell picnic area at the top of the ravine is a great place to celebrate the climb. (We should also mention that it’s possible to hike down from the top, cutting the distance to the falls from 1.3 upward miles to just a quarter-mile with a 240-foot drop.)
Cataract Falls is on the north slope of Mount Tamalpais, within the dog-friendly Marin Municipal Water District.
Photo: Cataract Falls" - Jamison Weiser