Mount Tamalpais State Park - Cataract Trail


Update: I revisit this place at Feb 2022

: Along the trail you will see several waterfalls and old growth redwood forest at the deep ravine, ferns, huge oak trees and even meadows at the upper trail section.
There are few options to hike this trail so read below and select your prefered way to go.

My highway 1 north section trip planner link:

Nearby places to visit:

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 Mount Tamalpais State Park. To avoid the crowd, try to come early in the morning or late at the afternoon. another option is to visit here during weekdays. My favorite option is to visit here a “bad” winter day with heavy rain weather, where many other hikers 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 some water flowing or it will be completely dry. I revisit here at Feb. 20, 2022 and the waterfalls where flowing but because this is very dary winter it was not so impressive.

Due note 3: Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Due note 4: I saw that the signe premite mountain bike, not sure this is a trail for bikes and they need to change this ....


My thoughts: Highly recommended hike although it can be crowded. I visit here few times during summer where the water flow was not impressive and at winter with more water. if coming from the lower parking lot the drive to the remote location will probably be longer than the hike.

The visit:


There are few option to hike to the Cataract waterfalls so you need to plan in advance what you want to do and drive to the specific trailhead parking lot.

You can do this hike as out and back or extend it with a longer loop in Mount Tamp forest.

I did not found an oficial loop trail to the Cataract hike unless you are willing to hike the winding, and with many cars, road that lead to the lower parking lot (from the junction of Fairfax Bolinas Rd and W Ridgecrest Blvd).

Many of the visitors do not hike the entire 3 (one way) trail but rather hiking from the lower trail entrance on Fairfax-Bolinas Rd. to the waterfalls and then going back down the same way. The hike to the waterfall section from the lower trailhead is relatively short, only 0.6 mile, but uphill.

You first hike the steep ravine up and at the last waterfall you descend back to your starting point.

The much longer option is to do all 3 miles in one direction and than go back.

No matter what your hiking direction is, when hiking the lower 1-mile-deep ravine trail there are many steep ascends switchback sections, sometimes with sets of stairs,. overall the trail is in a 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.

The road leading to this point is narrow and winding, with bike riders at weekends, so drive with care.
When you reach here you will see many cars parking along the roadside.
Find where to park your car down the road all the way to the nearby large Alpine Dam.
Make sure you are parking outside the road !
When I visit here (Feb. 2022) there where 2 restrooms near the trailhead.

From this parking lot it is the shortest way to reach to the waterfalls. The 0.6 mile trail climbing up the narrow creek, crossing few wooden brides and near the water.
You will start to see waterfalls on your left after short hike and additional climbing section will take you to the last waterfall, with a small pond at it foot.

From here you will probably hike back down at the same trail you went up.

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 2.5 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.







More pictures from Geb 2022 visit: