From Town to Falls

Hiking to Cascade Falls in Mill Valley

{JANUARY 2023 NOTE: Stay safe. Wait until storms have passed before hiking any trails, and before heading out be sure to check official websites for updates on trail status, closures, hazards, etc. Expect muddy and slippery trails, and exercise caution and good judgment.}

Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. For a more scenic and leisurely way, do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

The hike starts from the heart of downtown Mill Valley, following quiet residential streets and cutting through parks forested by redwoods. Cascade Drive is paved, mellow walking, passing some toney houses. Within a mile, veer off the street and onto a dirt trail paralleling Cascade Creek and a fantastic oasis to whet your appetite: the waterfall known as Three Wells.

Keep going along the dirt trail as it briefly clambers over and around boulders with raging Cascade Creek below. (If recent rain has been heavy, this section might be flooded, and impassable, so instead continue up Cascade Drive.) Either way, you’ll reach the parking pullout for the official Cascade Falls trailhead. Cascade Falls sounds tame by name, but this waterfall roars after good rains, splashing into a grotto and putting on a good show!

BONUS CAFÉ: Post falls, visit the Depot Bookstore & Cafe for a glass of wine and locally sourced lunch fare, from soups and salads to panini. If the weather's nice, grab a table on their large outdoor patio overlooking Lytton Plaza.

Park in downtown Mill Valley by the Depot Bookstore and Cafe (87 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley). Walk west on Throckmorton Ave. a couple of blocks and reach Old Mill Park. Cut through it and cross over the wooden bridge toward Cascade Dr. (a small traffic circle) and turn right. Stay on Cascade Dr. for 0.75 mile. About 50 feet after mailbox #305 look for a trail on the left of the road. Take this as it makes its way beside Cascade Creek (if the water is too high, just stay on Cascade Dr.). You'll soon cross Cascade Dr. and enter the final short section to the falls. Return the way you came. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Photo of the East Brother Light Station in the San Francisco Bay Area

    Oh, Brother!

    Spending the night on a tiny island in the Bay? Intriguing. Spending the night in a lighthouse perched on that island? Sound the foghorn! East Brother Light Station Bed & Breakfast sits on a small patch of land in the strait that separates San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

  2. Mill About Lakeside

    Bucks Lake Recreation Area near Quincy in Plumas County has plenty of beautiful hiking trails. For an easy hike with beautiful spots for sunning, swimming, and lounging on sand beaches or giant rock slabs, do the Mill Creek Trail.

  3. Camping at Chewing Gum Lake Emigrant Wilderness

    High Sierra Lake Hop

    Situated just north of Yosemite is a High Sierra wonderland that gets a fraction of the crowds and is a fantastic destination for backpacking. The Emigrant Wilderness is 113,000 acres of granite ridges, wildflower-strewn meadows, and cobalt lakes.

  4. The Secret Big Blue

    Set at 4,500 feet, surrounded by 52 miles of shoreline, and with sparkling sapphire hue, Lake Almanor is the other big blue. The secret one. This huge lake—idyllic in spring through fall for all kinds of water adventures—is a gem of Plumas County where you can relax without crowds.


Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Hot As (Bumpass) Hell

    So you like going to all the hot spots when you visit places? Well, in Lassen Volcanic National Park there’s a place so hot it gets downright steamy. Bumpass Hell is the largest hydrothermal area in the park, with sputtering mud pots, sulfur vents, and boiling pools. It’s California’s Yellowstone.

  2. Bucks Up!

    Come on in, the water is beautiful. Whether you like swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddling, or heading out on a bigger boat, Bucks Lake is a high mountain haven that’s easy to access, blissfully uncrowded, and surrounded by sandy beaches, picnic areas, pines, and aspens.

  3. Starcrossed Stairway?

    Built into the hillside next to the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Heights delights with historic homes, steep and narrow (mostly carless) streets, and enchanting city views. Best of all, it features a network of walkways and staircases that makes it super fun to wander and explore.

  4. Lunch at the Lakes

    Pack your own picnic and head for a lakeside lunch at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Then take your pick from a lovely trio of lakes accessed from the same trailhead. Follow it all up with a visit to Manzanita Lake on the other side of the park.