Dawn Ho!

Dawn Falls in Baltimore Canyon

Tucked at the end of a sleepy residential street in Larkspur, it's easy to miss the narrow path that drops into Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve, where serene redwoods resemble a condensed Muir Woods—without the crowds! The big winter draw? Dawn Falls, a majestic display of cascading water that after heavy rains gushes from the overlook at its precipice into an engorged Larkspur Creek 25 feet below. Get there via a gentle 2.2-mile out-and-back stroll, following the trail down to the forest floor and over a wooden bridge to the junction. Sunlight rarely penetrates to the soil here, creating the perfect oasis for fairy paths of ferns and mushrooms to take root while California giant salamanders and steelhead lurk in deeper pools of storm run-off. Turn right onto Dawn Falls Trail and follow the creek uphill through a thriving mix of madrone, bay, big-leaf maple, and second-growth redwoods. A large gray boulder marks a series of tight and steep switchbacks leading to the top of the falls and turnaround point. Return the way you came, or explore adjacent Ladybug, Southern Marin Line, and strenuously narrow Barbara Springs trails for a longer loop. Don't wait to visit—the falls quickly dry up and are best after steady rainfall.

In Corte Madera, exit Hwy. 101 at Tamalpais Dr. Go west on Tamalpais and veer left onto Redwood. Take a quick right at the stop sign onto Corte Madera Rd. which becomes Magnolia. Turn left onto Madrone Ave. Follow Madrone (which turns into Valley Way) 0.8 mile to a turnaround at the very end. Free parking available in designated roadside spaces, but the residential street is narrow and easily congested. Park on Madrone Ave. before Echo Pl. to avoid any hassle.

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