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

HARD 178 reviews
#3 of 66 trails in

Cataract Falls Trail, High Marsh, Kent Trail, and Helen Market Trail is a 8.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Fairfax, California that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. 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
8.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,063 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

scramble

See Marin County's most scenic waterfalls. 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.

17 days ago

This trail will kick your butt about 80% of the time. Take breaks as needed, bring lots of water and a joy the beauty.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike but it is really long. Once you are down to the lake it seems like it will never end. I took two kids and we made it!

2 months ago

Great!

hiking
3 months ago

They are not kidding about this being a hard trail. I measured almost 9.5 miles. It took me a solid 3.5 hours with no breaks. I ran about a mile of it. Lots of steep stairs and inclines. Helen Markt Trail was a killer. I felt like it wasn’t going to end. This is definitely a tough one even for the seasoned hiker! Lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife: Bring lots of water and snacks.

hiking
4 months ago

Hiked the loop today (7/29/18). Parking across the dam at the trailhead was limited. Started at 10:30 am. Went counter clockwise. Very steep up the creek to the falls. Eventually it leveled out to picnic area about 1.5 miles in. The trail around to the east was very nice and well maintained. Not a lot of views and the trail was in shade most of the way. From the where the trail went back down to the lake, the trail back to the original trail at the falls was long. Probably because it was hot and it seemed to keep going and going and going. Once at the turn off at the falls and back to parking, the rest of the hike was all down hill. The guide says it is 7+ miles but my iPhone activity said I went 9.3 miles. I do a lot of hiking and this distance seemed more accurate.

hiking
4 months ago

Cataract falls is an amazing trail. Lots of sights to see and the creek runs along the trail. There are signs all along the way with steps and rails to
Keep you sure footed. Be sure to arrive early because it will definitely get crowded after noon. Parking can be limited as well if you arrive late. All in all great trail and I definitely recommend it for the family hikers with kids. Enjoy!

hiking
4 months ago

I loved this hike!!! Definitely going to do this again but earlier in the morning (i would suggest to start at 9:00am). My boyfriend and I started at 12:00pm and ended around 3:00pm. Bring snacks to eat and lots of water. Hardest part was driving there and parking, but thats why i would suggest to get their early.

hiking
5 months ago

Definitely one of the most beautiful trails I’ve been to. Will come back for sure!

Grueling but sooooo worth it. One of the most gorgeous hikes the bay has to offer!

hiking
6 months ago

Definitely difficult but absolutely beautiful and worth the effort. Completed the 7.5 miles with our dog on leash.

hiking
6 months ago

Trails maintained well. Great views and numerous waterfalls from the get-go. Trail stats says 7.7 miles but my Garmin Fenix 5x says we did 10 miles.

Come early if you want to find parking close to the trailhead as it gets crowded later in the day.

hiking
7 months ago

- Parking: very easy and plentiful, even arriving late on a sunny Saturday morning; park near the trail start
- Scenery: amazing, and quite varied! Cataract Trail is almost completely wooded and you'll see small waterfalls. Near the middle of the hike, you'll enter a beautiful expanse of green hills and flowers; it looked a little like the Wizard of Oz.
- Wildlife: we saw deer and a sleeping owl during the trail :) No birds.
- Bathrooms: there was 1 portable potty at the parking lot
- Shoes: the inclines were mostly stairs, so regular exercise shoes worked fine for me. The declines / inclines were not gravely / sandy.

hiking
7 months ago

A bit rough on the old joints but awesome hike.

hiking
8 months ago

One of the most scenic hikes in the area. The waterfalls are amazing. We took a detour to the top of the hill across the Ridgecrest road to find some breathtaking 360 views down to Stinson beach. It was a perfect spot for lunch. It adds about 1.5 miles to the hike but is absolutely worth it.

8 months ago

A multitude of views, such a beautiful loop! Waterfalls, forest, meadows, lake, marshes. l'd definitely do this one again!

hiking
8 months ago

All future hikes will be in tough competition with this gorgeous beauty. The first mile (stairs, steps, stairs, steps, etc) is tough but the scenery is breathtaking. Cataract Falls Trail was crowded with both hikers and people strewn about the waterfalls. You can't blame them, it's awesome and peaceful. It's easy to miss the High Marsh Trail when it veers off to the left. (If you hit the open meadow and road, turn back). This is where the loop gets really unique. From deep forest to Alpine meadow to streams and the lake. Other people have said it, fuel up at the lake, you'll want to for the next mile up! That climb at the end makes the return trip down Cataract even more heavenly.

hiking
8 months ago

First mile or so was a climb, but there were beautiful falls to view along the way up. We went in March and there was plenty of water falling.

hiking
8 months ago

Arrived around 8:00 am—saw only 1 other person during first couple of hours, but trail crowded going down around 11:00. Ascent along the creek invigorating. Gorgeous views of falls and pools. After split off Cataract, terrain interesting: grassy hillsides, dry forests, marshes, rocky deserts, streams, etc, etc. Moments of utter silence in the forest. Woodpeckers. Frogs. Mosquitoes. Mosses. Ferns. Lots of shade. A fun hike though my Achilles’ tendons are aching!

hiking
8 months ago

steps steps and more steps.

hiking
9 months ago

Absolutely beautiful! As the previous reviews say, the beginning of the hike is vigorous for roughly 1.5 miles but stunning! I took my dog and she did great, there are a fair amount of stairs so going down was a little harder on her but other than that very dog friendly! We arrived at 7:30am and we're the first hikers out there but by the time we were done 4 hours later the trail/parking area was swamped so head out early and enjoy this beautiful hike by beating the crowd!

hiking
9 months ago

Great hike, lots of climbing but its worth it. Finding a parking spot is little challenging on busy weekends but not bad!

hiking
9 months ago

Beautiful hike. Hard work at the beginning, but totally worth it.

9 months ago

I would rate this hike "hard". It's about four hours of hiking with a lot of climbing but it's worth the effort.

10 months ago

Loved the hike! The weather was perfect and was glad to have beat the crowd.

10 months ago

Great trail! Tough at the beginning, but the falls are worth it. The lake makes for a nice lunch break.

hiking
10 months ago

This trail was beyond fabulous! The first part is waterfall central, you basically ascend very quickly, following the waterfall up a steep incline. After about a mile or so, the trail starts to even out and you reach a fork in the road. One arrow points to Cataract Trail, the other to High Marsh Trail. If you want a nice spot to sit and eat lunch by the river, and if you want to use the bathroom before the rest of the long hike, go toward Cataract Trail. There is a porter potty at the trail head, also.

If you choose to snack at the picnic area, you can backtrack and follow High Marsh Trail at the fork, which takes you out of the forest and onto an open stretch where you can see a gorgeous view from the side of the mountain. And then it’s into the forest again!

We saw so many different types of fungi- they were so diverse! We also saw small orchids, and bulb plants about to bloom. I’d like to go back and see what types they turn out to be! After switching to Kent Trail, we descended and found ourselves overlooking Alpine Lake, and we met a yellow-bellied salamander close by. We crossed creeks and walked past a Marsh, as well.

All in all, the Trail was beautiful and (except for the initial waterfall part) quiet. There were times it seemed like I was the only person in the forest.

hiking
10 months ago

Great hike with many rewarding views!!

hiking
11 months ago

Incredibly busy up until the junction than peaceful and hardly a person after turning left to do the loop clock wise. Gorgeous views up top.

hiking
11 months ago

Loved this loop! it was the perfect combination of steep ups and downs but with enough leveling out that you didn't get annoyed with it!

11 months ago

Logistically paths are narrow and often you're walking along a cliffside so be sure to go with caution if youre planning on taking a pup with you. otherwise, this was strenuous but worth it given the amazing views and how deep into the forest you got.

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