Cataract Falls and Potrero Meadows Loop (Cataract, Helen Market, Kent, Benstein Trails)

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Mount Tamalpais Watershed

Cataract Falls and Potrero Meadows Loop (Cataract, Helen Market, Kent, Benstein Trails) is a 8.4 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Mill Valley, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 8.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1,837 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

The watershed remains open to the public, with some restrictions, for recreational use daily from sunrise to sunset. The recent county health order prohibits vehicles and parking at the watershed, with the exception of people with disabilities who have the required disability placards or license plates for their vehicles. Parking for those with disabilities is available at our Sky Oaks parking lot. While the watershed remains open, visitors must comply with social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet. All volunteer programs that take place on the watershed have been canceled until further notice. NOTE: As of May 2020, parking lot to the trailhead is closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Please check the park website for more information. Enjoy the beautiful Catact Falls as it drains into the Alpine Lake, Manzinta groves, redwoods, and chaparral biomes offer a plethora of natural habits to relax and enjoy the soothing sighgts and sounds of nauture. (Cataract, Helen Market, Kent, Benstein Trails)

hiking
18 days ago

every possible entry to this trail is closed, no side road parking.

hiking
22 days ago

Hi is anybody able to tell me if this trail is open and accessible. if so, how is the parking situation. thank you

hiking
2 months ago

One of the most stunning hikes I've been on. Wear hiking boots with ankle support, I tend to like rolling mine on hikes. Don't have a time estimate since we stopped so many times to do photos/videos- started around 11am, the lighting was perfect for photo peeps. Bring snacks.

Great trail. We went counter clockwise down rocks and occasionally steep dirt to Alpine lake, then up stairs by falls. 5 hours with teenagers and dog.

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

Beautiful, immensely challenging hike. I would say go clockwise if you want a better workout, will give you lots of distance uphill. The Cataract aspect of the trail is more crowded but beautiful. Took 4.5 hours with minimal breaks. Poles encouraged, lots of ascent and descent.

hiking
muddy
rocky
4 months ago

Did the trail counterclockwise, would recommend doing it in this direction. Poor signage on the first half of the trail with multiple crossing trails, download map data before leaving for this hike to avoid getting lost as cell service is poor. Cataract trail was only busy for the first half mile or so, hiking after a few days of rain made for a lot of flow on the waterfalls. There are a few picnic areas along the trail, but none at the beach at the halfway point of the trail. A few fallen trees on the first half of the hike cross the trail.

hiking
7 months ago

Mellow, beautiful hike. Saw a total of three people the entirety of the hike. The trail is pretty much completely shaded, so really great for the pup. I went counter clockwise as suggested on here; glad I had a hiking pole for the decent. Watch for poison oak, it's everywhere!! Bring a suit if you're feeling courageous and want to dip in the pools. There are two that are great for a dip on Cataract Trail.

running
8 months ago

This is a great trail, but not ideal for running. Do it clockwise if you want to run the stairs downhill and run up a mix of rocks and pretty steep dirt paths. Getting to Alpine Lake half way through the trail is pretty great. Unless you’re in excellent trail running shape, expect to walk quite a bit uphill.

hiking
8 months ago

Stunning variety of environments. It felt like 4 hikes in 1. Nobody on the back side then jam packed on the cataract falls bit. I hiked counterclockwise and enjoyed the solitude before the crush. Love that I can bring the pup.

Awesome trail. Highly recommend going counter clockwise as others have said. First half was incredible, gorgeous views and didn’t see a single person on the trail until we reached the lake. Took us around 5 hours to complete the loop with frequent stops to take photos. The last half of the hike was extremely crowded and honestly not that exciting. I would recommend hiking to the lake and coming back the way you came. Overall easily 5/5 stars and would do again.

Trail was great! We took a few detours to make a portion of the trail a little easier. We had our dog with us and this was probably her most difficult hike. I’d rate this trail as strenuous. There are a lot of inclines and different types of terrain to go through. Trail was not too heavily trafficked and we went on a Saturday. It was very nice and peaceful. The halfway point was the lake and we stopped to have lunch. Would do this trail again but might start earlier in the morning. Beautiful hike with lots of trees! In the rainy season the falls would be better to see, it’s a small creek at this time of year. Took us 5 hours with a 20 min lunch break and a few other rest stops on the way back.

I would rate this as strenuous. Completed it counter clockwise and both directions had very steep parts. Gorgeous varied terrain and forest with a beautiful lake at the halfway point. Wear shorts, it gets hot! Awesome hike.

Hiked this w/ my three dogs. Went counter clockwise and saw only a few people on Kent trail. Almost all of the traffic is on Cataract trail. Majority of the elevation is down and up from Alpine Lake. Lots of loose rock on Kent trail down to Alpine Lake, so shoes w/ good traction recommended. Overall very beautiful trek, mostly shaded. Cataract trail runs alongside the stream to the falls, and sound of the running stream while hiking is soothing and peaceful. Pay attention to the trail markers otherwise you'll wind up on a different trail. GPS quite useful at all of the trail crossings.

hiking
11 months ago

My favorite dog-friendly hike! The trail is popular on the weekends and parking can be difficult. Hiking up the falls can be crowded but they will become less so once you get past the falls and onto the trails.

11 months ago

Decided to do it counter clockwise like others suggested and it was pretty sweet. Only saw 3 other hikers for the majority of the hike until I hit the falls. Took about 4.5 hours to compete

hiking
11 months ago

Parked at rock springs and did this loop counterclockwise. Fitbit said it was 11.01 miles and we did it leisurely in 5 hours. (We did get a bit turned around near laurel dell and ended up on high marsh trail for a bit). Varied scenery - redwood groves, meadows, manzanita, - and the up along the falls isn’t too steep. Moderate hike. Very pretty. Mostly shaded from the sun.

hiking
Fri May 10 2019

Friday 5/10/19 8am-1.45pm (added Mt West Peak) Counterclockwise. Total=11.3 miles. Sunny 50-60s but 90% under tree canopy. Hiker's Paradise. Well marked trails thru babbling brooks, towering trees, wildflower meadows, gushing streams, majestic views, and hardly a soul (except near Cataract Falls). As an avid Southern California hiker I am jealous of what you all up north have in your backyard. I've traveled to many places but it's incredible what is right here and few to trample on it. The quality of maintenance and service by California State Parks is to be commended. Only New Zealand does it better. Enjoy.

hiking
Sat Apr 20 2019

Love this trail, went clockwise and had a great workout on the last 3 or so miles. Shady and cool along the trail.

Sat Apr 13 2019

Went again on 04/06 and the entire trail was muddy. But insanely green. Lots of water. Misty and abundant water falls. Simply beautiful. If it's rains, do this loop. This is not hard but easy to moderate.

Sun Mar 31 2019

great hike.

hiking
Sat Mar 30 2019

Nice loop hike, went counter clockwise and didn't see many people until reached the falls. There is a great view of the ocean and San Francisco just a short hike past the parking area, go to the second hill to view (see my recording). Trail was a bit muddy still from the recent rains but made the falls all the nicer.

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