Cataract Falls Hike – Jan 2017

January 16, 2017


With all the rain we’ve been getting this winter in the Bay Area, I wanted to check on Cataract Falls, a small waterfall in Marin, nestled in what is probably my favorite local hiking area.  We were not disappointed – the waterfall was roaring (as much as a small waterfall from a creek can roar).  The last time I saw it was during the peak of the drought and water levels were pretty low, not quite a trickle but definitely not gushing.

Cataract Falls
Cataract Falls

Since that last trip during the drought, I had attempted to go again twice, but the road leading to the trailhead I usually start at (Cataract Trailhead off Fairfax-Bolinas Road) was closed due to damage from last year’s storms in March.  Just read that the road may be open again – – but I haven’t personally confirmed if it really is or not.

For this trip, we parked at the Rock Springs trailhead, from which a friend had recently hiked to Cataract Falls.  This trailhead goes up to the falls from the south (vs. down from the north from Cataract Trailhead).

Given it was MLK day, I wasn’t sure of the crowd/traffic situation and wanted to get there early.  We left the city at 7:45am and got to the trailhead at 8:30.  At that time, there were only about 10 cars there.  Once we hit the trails, we didn’t see or hear anyone else – making it a very peaceful hike.  You could definitely hear yourself think if you wanted to.  It wasn’t until we were almost back at the parking lot that we saw other hikers.

A storm had just passed through and it was one of the few clear days before the next storm.  Despite the sun being out, it was quite a bit colder than I expected and I wished I had brought gloves – my hands were freezing the whole time.

Still frosty and foggy at 10am


Hiking along the hillside with a view of Alpine Lake

The specific trails we took were completely new to me, but similar to the trails closer to Alpine Lake that I had taken to hike to Cataract Falls previously.  I love the trails here – mostly covered, lush, and with a good variety of terrain going up and down hills and across streams/water falls.  Best of all, it’s not super crowded (if you go early) as it’s not as easy to get to as Tennessee Valley.  For these reasons, I often refer to this as my “secret hike” as I hope it remains relatively undiscovered (I debated whether or not to post about this hike, but I figured not that many people will actually see this post).

Approach to Cataract Falls


We came across a 2nd waterfall on our hike

I love that I found this trailhead – there are many other trails/routes you can take from here.  Looking forward to piecing together a longer day hike soon!

Trail details:

Trailhead:  Rock Springs

Length/Route:  ~6 miles (2.5 hours)

  • Cataract
  • High Marsh
  • Cross Country Boys
  • Kent
  • Benstein
  • Simmons
  • Cataract


  • 1.5 liters of water
  • 1 bar

My rating (high=5, overall/difficulty): 5/3


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