Marin Blog · Outdoor Adventures Collection

Marin’s Top Waterfall Hikes

Posted in Blogging Marin on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 by MCVB Staff

The rainy season has finally hit Marin and the county’s highest peak—Mount Tamalpais—recorded a whopping 34 inches of precipitation from the first big storm of the season. For nature lovers, the big rainfall means great waterfall hikes in the woodsy hills, canyons and ravines of Marin’s parklands and open space. 

One favorite waterfall hike is the Cataract Falls Trail Loop located off Bolinas-Fairfax Road near Alpine Lake in the watershed district lands.  The woodsy trail climbs steeply up a narrow, redwood-and-bay gladed ravine, passing a series of nine cascading waterfalls on Cataract Creek along the way. It’s about a two-mile hike to the top of the trail following continuous cascading water, but you can opt for a 7-mile loop that includes scenic vistas stretching to the Pacific Ocean. To access a view of the upper falls be prepared to climb some steep steps, and bring hiking poles for the descent down. Parking is free and typically fills early in the day due to the trail’s popularity.

Cascade Falls in Mill Valley’s Cascade Canyon is one of the easiest waterfalls to visit in Marin. More of a leisurely 20-minute walk than a hike, the falls are located deep within a woodsy canyon near the Three Wells and Cascade Dam and are best seen after a heavy rain.  There are options along the way for a longer walk if time is on your side. To get there, follow Cascade Drive just past the last intersection with Throckmorton Avenue to a small dirt parking lot with a wooden sign that says “Cascade Falls”.

If you’re an adventurous hiker, a classic Marin waterfall hike is Carson Falls. There are four great, under-the-radar waterfalls—plus a 360-degree view of Marin County from the peak of Pine Mountain—along the Carson Falls hiking path, which even has boulders to sit on and watch the waterfalls from. This hike is a hidden favorite among the locals that actually combines a few different interesting paths, but there are maps and hike descriptions available online. Access to Carson Falls is available from the Azaela Hill Trail parking lot on Bolinas-Fairfax Road, a section that is not impacted by the county road work closure. From here, the hike to the falls is approximately 3 miles. Parking is free.

In Novato, the Ken Harth Waterfall Trail in Marin's Indian Valley Open Space Preserve leads to a gushing cascade. Start at the west end of the College of Marin/Indian Valley campus parking lot where parking is free on weekends. Visitors can hike the 2.2 mile loop at the ball fields, and enter through the open space gate where there is a small pond to greet you. If you are lucky enough to be there close to early spring you will catch the sound of loud croaking frogs during their mating season. Watch out for the strutting wild turkeys!  Next, take the Pacheco Pond Fire Road uphill with a few switchbacks included for good measure, and then look for a sign on the left that indicates the waterfall trail.

More information on featured attractions:

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

Magnificent Mt. Tamalpais has 6,300 acres of redwood groves and oak woodlands with spectacular views from its 2,500 foot peak. It is a hikers and bikers paradise. The...[Learn More]

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Campers may use campsites in the Point Reyes National Seashore year-round, but because of its proximity to San Francisco, the campsites are in great demand. Campsites are located...[Learn More]

Tags: Hiking