The Best Waterfall Hikes in Marin County
Posted Tuesday, September 5, 2017 by MCVB Staff
By Joe Kukura
Just a little out there, Marin County is renowned for its great hiking destinations like Point Reyes and Mount Tamalpais, but there are a few secret and less well-known hiking trails with breathtaking waterfalls hidden deep within the forests. With the California drought now thankfully in our rearview mirrors, these waterfalls are gushing at record levels and producing unforgettable, Instagrammable photo opportunities of gorgeous natural beauty you’ll never forget.
Marin County has waterfalls right along the Pacific Ocean, many with waters cascading off the coastal mountains. You’ll also find waterfalls along redwood trails and in forest ravines and canyons. Let’s gush over the most astonishing waterfalls of Marin County and the hiking trails where you can find them.
There are only two waterfalls in all of California that flow right into the Pacific Ocean, and Point Reyes National Seashore’s Alamere Falls is one of them. A spectacular sight like no other, Alamere Falls is the endpoint of a great 4.3-mile hike with sweeping mountain views through the Palomarin Trailhead just past Bolinas, covering other wonderful natural waterworks like the popular swimming hole of Bass Lake and the lush wildlife haven of Pelican Lake.
You don’t see just one waterfall along the Cataract Falls Trail Loop, you see nine. Both the beginning and the end of this dog-friendly, seven-mile redwood forest loop are accessible by road, with high-elevation heights offering scenic Pacific Ocean views, plus washrooms and picnic areas along the way.
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.
Cascade Falls is an easy and quick hike for casual hikers in Fairfax, and you might even see the rare and endangered steelhead trout flopping through the waterfalls. It’s natural for them here in their habitat. Parking can be found at the Canyon Road and Cascade Drive trailheads, and a cool wooden bridge highlights the easily walkable path.
Another light and easy, 1.3-mile hike for adventurers of any level or age, Fairway Falls is a new waterfall area near Novato, just opened to the public in recent years. This hiking trail follows a small, adorable stream with plenty of tiny lizards scurrying alongside, and a rewarding, gorgeous waterfall at the end of the path.
Redwood-covered mountain panoramas provide the scenery along your hike to Larkspur’s Dawn Falls, a really cool waterfall formation that goes off in 19 different directions simultaneously like a piece of modern art. This short hike is simple yet amazingly scenic, and the trails are very well defined.
Bolinas’ Alpine Dam is not a natural waterfall but a 150-foot man-made one at a dam at the Alpine Lake reservoir. But it’s still a spectacular spot for fishing, swimming and hikes along the amazingly deep blue waters, plus views of the really powerful and enormous falls.
A scenic Marin County waterfall hiking adventure that no hiker would ever forget awaits outdoor adventurers of any skill level. And you can top off your hike at one of Marin County’s famous farm-to-table restaurants, nightlife spots or places to stay overnight. So make plans to fall for Marin County on your next hiking trip—the waterfall scenery will blow you out of the water.