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Bolinas, California, United States

Cataract Trail Loop in Marin County

See Marin County's most scenic waterfalls. 7-mile moderate hike

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 (66 Stimmen, 17 reviews)
Difficulty: Mittelmäßig
Length: 7.7 miles / 12.4 km
Duration: Halber Tag
 
Übersicht: Cataract Creek Trail offers a perfect excuse to play hooky from work or spend a vacation day in the woods. The creek's waterfalls provide a spectacular anchor for a 7-mile loop through the scenic lands of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. You could just hike a mile and a quarter to the top of the Cataract Creek Trail and return, but I figure if you're going to drive this deep into the Marin County backcountry, you may as well get a few hours of hiking in. The loop includes scenic vistas stretching to the Pacific Ocean, narrow single-track into the wooded hillsides into forests of young redwood and Douglas fir. Marin County has over 500 miles of trails; these are among the best.

Tipps: Use extreme caution near the waterfalls: slips could be deadly.

Footing is tricky along the Cataract Trail, which is short but steep. Beginners can tire easily.

Parking is very limited; best to go on a weekday.

Poison oak is common along narrow sections of trail.


What to bring:
A map (download a PDF here)
Layers -- the climb will warm you up, but much of the hike is on even terrain so you'll cool back down.
Water and snacks -- you'll need the energy and hydration.
A camera and tripod if you're into photography.

Driving Directions:
From Highway 101 in Marin County, take the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard West exit and turn west. Stay on Sir Francis Drake for about five miles till you reach the town of Fairfax. Turn left in the turn lane just past the Valero gas station, then take an immediate right turn onto Broadway. Go about a block and turn left on Bolinas Road. Stay on Bolinas Road for about eight miles; you'll cross a dam and a find a small parking area at a sharp hairpin turn. The trail starts here.

Points of Interest

map

Cataract Creek

Cataract Creek Trail starts out tracking Alpine Lake but starts climbing quickly. You'll hear the first waterfall long before you see it, but once you do, prepare to be awed.

The climb is pretty steep for the first half-mile. Soon you'll see a junction with the Helen Markt Trail -- don't turn yet, this will be the return link on your loop.

Keep climbing and enjoying the cascading water and wildflowers (in springtime) along the way. At 1.4 miles you'll come to a junction with the High Marsh Trail. You could shave a mile off this hike by turning left here, but I prefer to hike about another half-mile to the Laurel Dell picnic area, where I rest up from the climb and get back on the trail.
map

High Marsh Trail

If you stop at Laurel Dell, retrace your steps back to the High Marsh Trail junction and turn right. High Marsh is a delightful single-track through open hillsides and thick forest. It tracks along a hillside so there's not too much up and down.

High Marsh Trail goes 2.1 miles to the intersection with Kent Trail. Turn left there and start heading down the hillside. This is a steep downgrade, so take your time and watch your footing.
map

Kent Trail to Helen Markt Trail

Kent Trail continues for a mile and a half down to the shore of Alpine Lake, where you turn left on the Helen Markt Trail. You might want to rest near the lake before you take on Helen Markt: it climbs about 600 feet as it traverses multiple gullies.

Helen Markt Trail goes for 1.7 miles, where you return to Cataract Trail, turn right and return to the trailhead -- and enjoy a few more waterfall views before you're done.
Die Bilder in diesem Guide wurden aufgenommen von: tommangan, onnow, ilya_ktsn, gkoffler, wooac, rkaikini, prathmann
Reviews
inqueba
a must visit place... very adventures

von inqueba on Jul 17, 2014
hairtransplant
Awesome place... amazing waterfalls

von hairtransplant on Jul 17, 2014
edongzki
The place was awesome and very relaxing waterfalls.
Visited on Jul 12, 2012

von edongzki on Jul 08, 2014
AloTrip
great waterfall. i will come there once more time if i have a chance :)
Visited on Mar 02, 2012

von AloTrip on Jun 09, 2014
Milt
We did this trip yesterday. I would rate it as strenuous mainly because you drop back down to water level and then hike back up to be able to hike down. The upper part was the most picturesque.

The distance in our device registered almost 10 miles.

We modified it a bit by taking the fire road from the picnic area. We turned left off the road at the fist opportunity and came out on a Knoll that was spectacular. Then we hooked back up to the trail mentioned in this write up.

Next time I'll try making a loop from the top section only.

Visited on Apr 06, 2014

von Milt on Apr 07, 2014
kshirol
This trail is one of the most beautiful ones I have done in the recent times. We started out very early in the day. We reached the cataract trail starting point by 7:45AM. There were not many visitors yet. We got the parking quite easily.

I would not recommend this to beginners. It is quite strenous and would recommend some practise before attempting it.

There are lot of waterfalls and water streams along the path. The path is good to do even on hot summer days given the fact that the path is mostly covered with huge trees and thick forest.

Make sure you enjoy the path at every phase of it. I highly recommend this trail to people who love nature. Last but not the lease, stop and take a look at the Alpine Dam which is nearby.

Happy Hiking !

Visited on Mar 22, 2014

von kshirol on Mar 23, 2014
mira.brower
The hike is beautiful - after recent rains, it felt like all of the Cataract part of the trail was one huge continuous waterfall. It is a challenging hike, so bring water and plan for a full day if you are doing the whole loop. Hiking poles are a good idea on this trail if you usually use them. There are not a lot of people here due to the small parking area, and it is a good idea to go on an off day, not the weekend.
Visited on Mar 07, 2014

von mira.brower on Mar 07, 2014
gawinalun
Amazing waterfalls! I would love to be there.

von gawinalun on Jan 05, 2014
popculturez13
Good thing I came across your blog. Great Article Thanks!
Want more Pop Culture? Log onto WWW.POPCULTUREZ.COM!

Visited on Jan 02, 2009

von popculturez13 on Oct 16, 2013
mariuszturecki
Awesome place! must back there soon
Visited on Aug 10, 2012

von mariuszturecki on Sep 26, 2013
nguoi.la.12
Wonderful hike! Thanks SO much for sharing.
Visited on Aug 07, 2013

von nguoi.la.12 on Aug 07, 2013
ladypnai.arlene
I loved this trail. Hike up will make you breathe hard but its all well worth it because you will see the gorgeous falls.

Visited on Jul 13, 2013

von ladypnai.arlene on Jul 26, 2013
emilyegiles
Great hike! The beginning is steep but the waterfalls make the climb worthwhile. I finished my entire camelpak (50 oz) which I did not expect on a hike of this length so definitely plan to bring extra water.
Visited on May 15, 2013

von emilyegiles on May 20, 2013
rfrankle
Great, vigorous hike. Beautiful woods and waterfalls. So glad I brought extra water (like someone else suggested) and also sooo happy to have my hiking poles!! Not as many vista points as I was expecting, but the woods and waterfalls provided plenty of beauty.
Visited on Feb 22, 2013

von rfrankle on Feb 23, 2013
joywithin
This hike is indeed beautiful. I love the views of other mountains, the lake and of course, the waterfalls! I did not, however, expect that it be a serious climb... BOTH WAYS! Our GPS reported that we climbed almost 2400 ft in 7.9 miles- that's a lot for me. There are very few times during this hike where I actually felt like we were on flat ground. The steep decline (the same steep incline with lots of stairs in the beginning) on the way back felt treacherous since by that time my legs were fatigued.
Visited on Feb 16, 2013

von joywithin on Feb 20, 2013
dborkowski
Just starting a review here, as I have not hiked the whole trail yet. Let it be known, that the first part of the trail, is not for the faint of heart. Intense, steep ascent.
Visited on Jan 27, 2013

von dborkowski on Jan 28, 2013
nicole2012
Wonderful hike! Thanks SO much for sharing. Bring extra water, Be sure to take Alpine Trail once you've completed Helen Market to return to the beginning!
Visited on Jul 10, 2012

von nicole2012 on Jul 12, 2012

Cataract Trail Loop in Marin County Trail Map


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tommangan
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