Rush and Tumble

Hike to Cataract Falls on Mount Tam

Mount Tam’s Cataract Falls is the bobsled course of waterfalls: over a mile of twisting, turning, tumbling water—gushing, rushing, and making a splash! The real joy is hiking right beside Cataract Creek as it’s chugging on all cylinders, where the exclamations are 20- and 30-foot falls.

There are several ways to get to the falls, but recent road closures (due to the January storms) have made some of the entry points inaccessible.

We recommend starting at Rock Spring parking area and following the Cataract Trail to Laurel Dell picnic area, an oasis in its own right, shrouded in redwoods and green ferns. Continue another half-mile on Cataract Trail to the top of the falls. Hike down a series of wooden and rock steps.

The sound of water is a constant companion even if you don’t yet see the falls—the first of which is reached within a quarter mile. Keep going down, stopping to observe the deep grottoes created by the multi-flowing tiers.

Woman at overlook watching Cataract Falls on Mount Tam in Marin

A wooden bridge crossing over Cataract makes a good turnaround point; in the distance you can spy Alpine Lake, its bright blue hue tempting you to carry onward for a longer out-and-back hike.

Woman hiking at Mount Tam to Cataract Falls

Park at the Rock Spring trailhead on Mount Tam (map). Follow the Cataract Trail for about 1.5 miles to the Laurel Dell picnic area. Then continue on the Cataract Trail another half-mile to the top of the falls. You can continue down the trail another 0.75-mile to get the full waterfall. Dog-friendly!

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