Marin Blog · The Best in Marin Collection

The Best Waterfall Hikes in Marin County

Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2023 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 Spring underway, these waterfalls are gushing 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.


Cataract Falls - Mill Valley/Mt Tam 

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, eight-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. Access to Cataract Falls is possible only from the Laurel Dell Trailhead on West Ridgecrest Boulevard right now since there is emergency work on Bolinas-Fairfax Road. Presently, this leaves the falls inaccessible to cars.


Carson Falls - Fairfax

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. Parking is free as well.


Cascade Falls - Fairfax

Cascade Falls is an easy 1.7 mile out and back 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 both at the Canyon Road or Cascade Drive trailheads, and a cool wooden bridge highlights the easily walkable path.


Fairway Falls/Buck Gultch Falls - Novato 

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.


Dawn Falls - Larkspur 

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.



Alpine Dam

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.


For all you need to plan your Marin County vacation, visit the Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website or Facebook page.