Cataract Falls Trail, High Marsh, Kent Trail, and Helen Market Trail

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Mount Tamalpais Watershed

Cataract Falls Trail, High Marsh, Kent Trail, and Helen Market Trail is a 7.7 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Fairfax, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length7.7 miElevation gain1,984 ftRoute typeLoop
Dogs on leashHikingNature tripsBird watchingrunningForestLakeRiverViewsWaterfallRocky
Description
Waypoints (3)
Contact
Tips
Getting There

Cataract Creek Trail offers a perfect excuse to play hooky from work or spend a vacation day in the woods. The creek's waterfalls provide a spectacular anchor for a 7-mile loop through the scenic lands of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. The loop includes scenic vistas stretching to the Pacific Ocean, narrow single-track into the wooded hillsides into forests of young redwood and Douglas fir. Marin County has over 500 miles of trails; these are among the best.

Use extreme caution near the waterfalls: slips could be deadly. Footing is tricky along the Cataract Trail, which is short but steep. Beginners can tire easily. Parking is very limited; best to go on a weekday. Poison oak is common along narrow sections of trail. What to bring: A map (download a PDF here) Layers -- the climb will warm you up, but much of the hike is on even terrain so you'll cool back down. Water and snacks -- you'll need the energy and hydration. A camera and tripod if you're into photography.

Driving Directions: From Highway 101 in Marin County, take the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard West exit and turn west. Stay on Sir Francis Drake for about five miles till you reach the town of Fairfax. Turn left in the turn lane just past the Valero gas station, then take an immediate right turn onto Broadway. Go about a block and turn left on Bolinas Road. Stay on Bolinas Road for about eight miles; you'll cross a dam and a find a small parking area at a sharp hairpin turn. The trail starts here.

Weather
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Daylight
Reviews (369)
Photos (3,621)
Recordings (286)
Completed (1,073)
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Brad Wong
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HikingGreat!

definitely go counter-clockwise. Arrived at 10:30, first couple miles were packed. This is a great hike to get a workout, but lacks views / beautiful destination. Patches of redwoods were pretty, but landscape felt monotonous / dry and dusty.

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Lana Luna
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HikingGreat!
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Joeskee 1
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Fishing

Little cramping due to face mask

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Maria Garcia
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HikingGreat!

Extremely steep and a bit crowded after 12 p.m. however the entire hike had a gorgeous view of multiple waterfalls.

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Lisa Razon
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Hiking

Did the counter-clockwise to get a more gradual downhill but I don’t think it mattered and if it wasn’t so crowded I think I would have preferred descending along Cataract Trail at a slow pace along the waterfalls. Beautiful, waterfalls were flowing after recent rain. Cataract Trail was wayyy crowded for me on the weekends, lots of dogs and lots of causal hikers not really aware of trail etiquette. Saw a lot of TP along Cataract Trail :( despite “pack it in, pack it out” signs and common decency for using open space. Disappointed. High Marsh, Kent and Helen Mark Trails were really pretty and only saw a few people on them. A couple of friendly dogs off leash. Went through quite a bit of different terrains through this loop. The steep decline really bugs my knee tho and with the crowds on a weekend, it just isn’t worth it. Will try again on a weekday to see if I can get some space on Cataract Trail.

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Stephen Tyler
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? Great hike. We did it counterclockwise, and I highly recommend it. Get the uphill done with relatively quickly (it was easier than expected too)

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Gabe Rockets
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Hiking
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Matthew Gallaway
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Hiking
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Winson Lobo
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HikingRocky

Ended up doing the trail anticlockwise. Talk about feeling the elevation burn ALL upfront; and then to finish another 600ft from Alpine to Cataract Falls. the hike itself is beautiful and 95% shaded and I agree with the hard rating. Wear good shoes (read not sneakers); start early to beat the crowds at Cataract Falls.

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Jared Murphy
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Hiking

Good forested trail with lots of cover.

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Sertan Usanmaz
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HikingGreat!

Awesome trail, great views and a killer workout! Make sure you take plenty of water and sunscreen. Feel free to follow me on my Instagram account for more dope hiking adventures! @sertanusanmaz

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Christine Hendrick
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Hiking

Great trail for a workout! Challenging but not overly difficult. Great for dogs. There were a couple places to stop for a nice breather as well. Cataract trail was busy in early afternoon but the rest of the hike was nearly empty. Got there around 10:30am and found parking but had to walk a little bit to the trail.

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Odelia F
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Hiking

Went the other direction (accidentally) - makes for an amazing workout with lots of stairs! Views throughout the trail were great. Go early to get parking and avoid crowds. The beginning of the trail (with the waterfalls) was quite busy in the early afternoon. The lake midway was a great place to break and have a peaceful lunch

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Philip Lawson
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HikingGreat!

Great hike, a real butt kicker though, the last mile or so was a long mile. It was a beautiful hike as is/now but in spring, it would be stunning. We'll be back to do this one again!

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Jason Fox
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Hiking
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Lucy Hume
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Hiking
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Martin Barrett
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HikingGreat!
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Faisal Quadri
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Hiking
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Alison Christopherson
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Hiking

It was a great trail. I arrived at the trailhead around 7:30-8:00 am. Tons of parking was available and I had most of the trail to myself. On the way back (around) I saw tons of people on the trail. So I recommend arriving early. Similar to what others wrote, it was a great workout that really kicked my ass. I will be back when rainy season comes to see how the stream looks with more water.

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E Hoffman
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Hiking

Kicked my a**. Loved the views and missed it throughout Covid. Very happy to be back. Lots of incline, popular trail so lots of people too.

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Annie-Laurie Auden
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Hiking

Well maintained. Great for dogs. Multiple little watering holes along the way. STEEP! Kept off 1 star because there were quite a few people on the trail

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Douglas Hoffelt
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Hiking
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Isabel Fulcher
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HikingBugsGreat!

Well maintained trail with good views of the creek and watershed at multiple points. Loses one star as there was no vista point at the top... felt a bit lackluster to do all that climbing for no view gain. Arrived at 8AM on Sunday and was the second car. Trail seemed to get crowded towards the end - around 10AM.

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Kathy Lam
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Hiking
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Jim Frank
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Backpacking

Beautiful steep trail next to a bubbling stream.

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Sydnee Sherlock
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HikingScramble

Beautiful trail with lots of different terrain from forest to meadow to lake! Definitely a challenging hike as it is a lot of steep incline - my legs are so sore! The waterfalls/creek were low, probably due to the summer months. Would love to go again after a big rainfall. It’s easy to lose your footing so watch your steps!

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Resha Shrestha
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Hiking

Loved the hike so much that I recommended my friends to hike this trail! Such a hard uphill hike but completely doable! The small streams and falls on the way were refreshing. We did the hike anti clockwise and saved the lake for the last! Definitely recommend everyone to try it out!

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Jeremy David Johnson
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HikingGreat!

Had a great time on this trail! Well marked, nice views, decent trail overall. Went clockwise. Some elevation gain, but I didn't find it too arduous. Had to park just a little bit up the road from the very small parking lot--not a big deal at all.

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Nicola G
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Hiking

So much elevation. this is truly a very hard hike. I hike all the time and this was very long, over 4 hours. It was so beautiful but be prepared for lots of water (over 2l) and snacks.

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