Mount Tamalpais State Park - Cataract Trail


What? : Along the trail you will see several waterfalls and old growth redwood forest at the deep ravine, ferns, and huge oak trees and even meadows at the upper trail section.


Where? : Located at the west north section of Mount Tamalpais State Park.

Google Map Link


When? : Year round, preferred at winter when the waterfalls will be at their peak flow.


Due note 1: This is probably the most famous, beautiful, and unfortunately crowded hike in the park. To avoid the crowd, try to come early in morning or late afternoon, or during weekdays, or in a “bad” rainy weather where many others prefer to stay at home (you will get the bonus of nice waterfalls).


Due note 2: Highly recommend doing this hike at winter right after rainstorm when the waterfalls are at their peak, at summer you may see a water flowing or it will be completely dry.


My thoughts: Highly recommended hike although it can be crowded. I visit here only one time during summer where the water flow was not impressive. Must visit here again during or after rainstorm.

The visit:


Unless you are doing a much longer hike (as I did one, look at the map) this is out and back trail, the length of the trail, one direction, is 3 miles (total hike of 6 miles).

Many do not hike the entire trail but rather hiking to the waterfalls and then going back. The hike to the waterfall section from the lower trailhead is much sorter, you hike the steep ravine up at first and descend back to your starting point.

No matter what your hiking direction is, when hiking the lower 1-mile-deep ravine trail section there are many steps ascends sometimes with sets of stairs or switchbacks, but the trail is in good condition.


There are 2 Trailhead point at each end of the trail:

Fairfax Bolinas Rd Trailhead: this is lower starting point, located at remote road that is leading to Alpine Lake Dam.

Link to trailhead location:


Rock Spring Trailhead: this is the upper trailhead, located on the road leading to the Mt Tamalpais. If you will start from this point than it is around 2.3 mile hike down to the last waterfall and from there you will need to climb up the same way the same way you went down.

Link to trailhead location:


I will describe the hike from the upper starting point:

From the upper parking lot, start out across the meadow and soon the trail will join Cataract Creek and follow its descent all the way to Alpine Lake.

After 1.4 mile of an easy hike from the parking lot, you will reach trail junction and Laurel Dell picnic area.

Keep walking on Cataract Trail, from here the trail start to sharply descending into the ravine and the deep forest. Here you will see the waterfalls cascading their way down the creek.

Keep hiking down until the last waterfall or the end of the trail at the road.

Now you need to climb back the 3 miles and enjoy again this hike, this time going up.