Waterfall Milestone

Hike to Cataract Falls on Mount Tam in Marin

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. Every winter, Cataract Falls transforms into a long stretch of fast-charging flows, churning with such spectacular force that it’s hard not to let out a huge ‘whoo-hoo’ when you see them.

woman hiking to Cataract Falls on Mount Tam

Cataract Falls on Mount Tamalpais

Cataract Falls on Mount Tam

The roar of the falls fills Cataract Canyon, an ideal place to hike, especially when it’s raining. Starting at Alpine Dam, a 1.6-mile (one-way) narrow trail threads through ferns and redwoods along Cataract Creek. The first mile is a waterfall wonderland—at least half a dozen flows follow in short order, snap-crackle fast. Continue along the creek following the wooden and stone stairs to discover new surprises; falls just keep appearing around every corner, each about 20 to 30 feet high. Go with the flow.

Cataract Falls on Mount Tamalpais

The Cataract Trail is on Marin Municipal Water District land. From Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Fairfax, turn left onto Pacheco and immediately right onto Broadway. Turn left on Fairfax-Bolinas Rd. and drive 8 miles to Alpine Dam. This road sometimes closes during heavy rains in the winter, so check ahead to see if it's open. Cross the dam and park at one of the dirt pullouts within 0.1 mile of the dam. The trailhead is up on the left. Here's a map to the trailhead. Dog-friendly!

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