Mt. Tamalpais State Park: Cataract Falls
The Bay Area is a treasure trove of lush forests dotted with redwoods and picturesque cascades. I set out to do an 8 mile loop up Cataract Trail to High Marsh Trail to Kent Trail to Helen Markt Trail a few weekends ago but turned around due to torrential downpour. Ideally last weekend would have been the most ideal weekend for the hike, but this past weekend was just as good and the falls were still flowing!
This version of the hike begins at Alpine Lake, though there are other combinations you can take to get to the falls. The first mile or so of the hike takes you right next to Cataract Creek and little series of waterfalls. The trail is a combination of flatness and steep, slippery steps. The last large fall is right before the split to Laurel Dell and High Marsh Trail. In all honesty, the Cataract Trail is the most beautiful part about this trail. I seriously could have skipped the rest of the hike. The rest of the hike was pretty, but nothing as stunning as the Cataract Trail. If you don’t feel like hiking further, this is your stopping point. It’s okay. I won’t judge you, it’s nothing but misery from here on out.
After this, you take High Marsh for some time, traversing along grassy green hillsides and ducking in and out of the woods until you hit Kent Trail. Kent Trail was my least favorite part; it was a hike through 5’ tall brush with not much to see. Then you’ll come to Helen Markt, the almost last leg of the trail which takes you along the edge of Alpine Lake for a split second before ascending back into the forest. By this point I was ready for the hike to be over, even though it wasn’t really that tough. You’ll make your way to Cataract again where you retrace your steps back to the trailhead, and then it’s the end.
You’ll want to get here early or go on a week day as this trail is very, very popular when the weather’s nice. Parking at the trailhead is limited, and tickets are issued often based on the mood of the park ranger. Cataract Falls is a short hike, but it is super beautiful and memorable.