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Cataract - High Marsh - Kent Trails Professional Review and Guide
"This is a strenuous, but spectacular, hike in the most remote section of Mt. Tamalpais. Wonderful pools, waterfalls and conifer forests. Steep and rocky in places."
--Don & Kay Martin, Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County (Marin Press LLC).
This is a very tough hike. Although it's only 8 miles, it takes a lot longer than you would anticipate. If you're in anything less than top condition, DO NOT ATTEMPT THE ENTIRE HIKE unless you have 8 hours of daylight!!
I know: I ran out of daylight with about a mile left. Once you've stumbled off the Helen Markl trail in utter darkness, you're in real trouble, as a wrong step will send you tumbling down 60-degree slopes. Without a good light and a good map, your best option is to hunker down for the night.
Most people just go to the top of Cataract and turn around. I can see why: Cataract is the beautiful part of the hike - the rest is grueling and there are better options for exploring this part of Mt. Tamalpais.
The really ugly surprise is the Helen Markl trail. By the time you reach this part of the hike, your legs are rubbery and you face a very steep ascent back to the mid-point of Cataract and then a steep descent back to the trailhead.
My advice: don't miss Cataract. Skip the rest of this hike. There are much nicer options off of the Sky Oaks trailhead.
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