Cataract Falls Trail

MODERATE 337 reviews
#1 of 39 trails in

Cataract Falls Trail is a 2.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Fairfax, 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
2.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1020 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

waterfall

scramble

Cataract Falls is one of the most popular falls trails in Marin County within the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a great hike with scattered cascading waterfalls along the entirety of the trail. The trailhead is located off of Bolinas Fairfax Road, just past Alpine Lake. The falls are reached by Cataract Trail starting from Bolinas Fairfax Road. The trail follows Cataract Creek north. The trail shortly starts to climb uphill through a shaded forest and crosses the flowing creek several times. You will eventually reach Laurel Dell picnic area. If you continue on the trail past the picnic area, it will start to descend towards the upper falls. At the junction of Helen Markt Trail and Cataract Trail there is a nice pool where you can stop, take a break, and enjoy the great views. Although this is a short hike, it has a decent amount of elevation gain and is a good workout. If you wish to extend your hike, you can also start from the Rock Spring Trailhead. The best time to visit is after rainfall when the waterflow is heavier.

hiking
1 day ago

Beautiful but crowded on weekends the only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 stars. Go on a weekday if you can for peace and serenity. Mossy and green year round. Mostly shaded With lots of ups and downs.

hiking
4 days ago

Gorgeous view of the waterfall, and it’s always fun to hike alongside waterways in Northern California! Tons and tons of stairs, so be prepared to get a workout. We continued on past the falls for about 2 miles, with even more stairs and turned back after.

Lots of waterfalls and great variety of scenery. There were a lot of stairs so something to be aware of, but we loved it and thought it was a great well rounded hike. We ended up stopping a couple miles in to eat lunch, and it was very peaceful.

hiking
11 days ago

Gorgeous scenery and many waterfalls throughout the hike.
We did a total of about 8.4 miles, since we continued onto the next trail for the view.
Even though it's fairly short, it was pretty exhausting since there's quite a bit of stairs, so bring lots of water. I'm out of shape, so it was a bit rough, but it is manageable.

18 days ago

This trail was nice to hike in. I hiked 4 miles in.
It was challenging going back up. (Which was what I was looking for) Don’t recommend if you’re a first time hiker, it could be a little difficult for you!

18 days ago

A gorgeous waterfalls, cataract Trail is one of my favorite trail.I walked 10.7miles, feels so awesome and relaxing.

hiking
30 days ago

Great Hike. I recommend getting there early to avoid the crowds and to access parking. Parking is limited. about 8 spots and a portable Toilet near the entrance. Lots of shade and very green. The trail is steep, but there are so many views of waterfalls and babbling streams, its a great trail for photographers and those that just want to take their time and enjoy nature.

hiking
1 month ago

Limited parking. Recommend getting there early to get a spot. There is no parking lot, only spaces along the side of the road. Maybe 9 or 10 spaces available before your have to park farther away and walk. The hike is short, provides plenty of shade, and displays multiple views of the waterfalls. Getting here at sunrise was great to beat the crowds.

1 month ago

This was a beautiful hike easy for my 7 year old to tag along and not easily exhaust him.
the ferns and trees were amazing to see.
parking was ok.

1 month ago

We did a loop and came back on o’brian and Simmons trails.the return path was much harder that the Cataract Falls hike. The falls is a great place to have lunch.

hiking
1 month ago

So fun! & gorgeous!

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful scenery! Ton of stairs

hiking
2 months ago

The creek and lake were low since there hasn't been much rainfall, but we still enjoyed the hike. The forest wast lovely, and surroundings peaceful as many have written. Also there was plenty of parking at the trailhead, without fees. We added a bit to the climb back towards Rock Springs by taking the Mickey O'Brien Trial to Simmons Trial. We were surprised to exit the forest and enter a rocky Manzanita filled landscape with a some nice views of the foothills. It was a great way to round out the hike, though steep at times.

hiking
2 months ago

Short steep hike with small waterfalls. Super green during winter. Definitely loved the peace and quiet!

hiking
2 months ago

Scenery constantly surprises you on this trail! Multiple waterfalls of varying lengths empty into small pools, surrounded by a moss and fern covered forest floor... you will not believe you are in Marin County! Many picturesque stops... foot bridges, lookout points, stairs made from wood, stones, and tree roots. Please be a responsible hiker with your garbage...pack in/pack out, this includes your little plastic puppy poo bags. Dogs are allowed ON LEASH. I went on a Monday, and only passed three sets of hikers (with two loose dogs) and one cyclist (which was crazy... way too many curvy steps for bikes). Nice picnic area at Laurel Dell. The sound of the waterfalls and babbling brook were icing on the cake.

hiking
2 months ago

Numerous waterfalls along the way and fairly limited crowds even on the weekends. Best to go right after rainfall

2 months ago

beautiful forresty scenery. the sound of the multiple waterfalls gave it a good vibe.

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful hike along a nice waterfall. Be prepared to climb!! Great work out. Definitely recommend

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful scenery through the woods very mossy, waterfall is best in winter time I'm sure, wasn't a lot of water there when we went today.

hiking
3 months ago

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