Cataract Trail

Mount Tamalpais Watershed, California 94924

Distance2.3mi
Elevation Gain1,665ft
Trailhead Elevation686ft
Top1,701ft
Elevation Min/Max648/1701ft
Elevation Start/End686/686ft

Cataract Trail

Cataract Trail is a hiking trail in Marin County, California. It is within Mount Tamalpais Watershed. It is 2.3 miles long and begins at 686 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 2.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,665 feet. The Rock Springs is near the trailhead. This trail connects with the following: High Marsh Trail, Simmons Fire Road, Laurel Dell Fire Road and Helen Market Trail.

Cataract Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"It’s a gut-wrenching climb that makes sweat pour down your forehead, and even the stoutest dog will have his tongue extended fully, but Cataract Falls and the Laurel Dell Picnic Area are worth every pounding heartbeat. For Cataract Falls isn’t just one falls, but a set of cascading waterfalls that rush down a wooded ravine on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais."

"It’s a gut-wrenching climb that makes sweat pour down your forehead, and even the stoutest dog will have its tongue extended fully, but Cataract Falls and the Laurel Dell Picnic Area are worth every pounding heartbeat. For Cataract Falls isn’t just one falls, but a set of cascading waterfalls that rush down a wooded ravine on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. The sights and smells are worth the sweat equity you’ll expend on this 750-foot-elevation climb. Besides, the picnic area is a welcomed pit stop where you can spread out a blanket and have a feast (go ahead and pack carbs, you’ll burn them)."

"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."

"A challenging but spectacular trail leads up along Cataract Creek, passing a series of waterfalls as it climbs from Alpine Lake to Laurel Dell. Given sufficient rainfall, any number of ephemeral cascades can be found in the steep gullies of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. But few carry the notoriety of the falls found along the Cataract Trail, which climbs beside Cataract Creek above Alpine Lake, one of five reservoirs on the mountain’s flanks.

A relatively challenging trail traces Cataract Creek as it plunges about 1,000 feet from Laurel Dell to Alpine Lake. Artfully combining switchbacks with stone and wooden staircases, the trail traverses steep slopes shaded by redwoods, laurels, and oaks through an understory lush with sword fern and bracken fern, and glowing with moss."

"This is a magnificent hike that features creeks, forests, views and flowers in some of the most remote areas on the mountain. Can have standing water in winter."

Cataract Trail Reviews

5
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
icon6 Total
7/10/2018
One of my favorite places to walk in the North Bay. It is pretty popular, so you have to tolerate crowds, but the earlier you go, the more peaceful and cool it is. The hike is just beautiful, covered in the forest, mostly along the creek, with several waterfalls.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
4/4/2013
Don't be fooled by the mere 6miles. This hike is mostly uphill; rocky, steep mountain side and gushing crisp waterfalls. Perfect for the everyday adventurer looking for a sweet burn in thighs. Time your hikes carefully, it's always darkest below the foliage. And watch out for salamanders and newts, they're all along the trail.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
5/30/2010
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.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
4/24/2010
This is a spectacular hike in the spring. The waterfalls are flowing and the wildflowers are in bloom. Lots of shade so you will not overheat.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
5/10/2009
I really love this trail. We hiked all the way to the top of this trail, where we were able to Sausalito and the Pacific. The trailhead starts at a lake surrounded by redwoods and California Bay, then climbs along falls and pools for a couple of miles until you enter Lauren Dell. The Dell is a lovely open meadow, which had plenty of wildflowers in the spring. We continued up through a very wet, densely forested trail that led to the view of Sausalito. We have hiked all over N. California and would definitely rank this hike in the top 10.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
5/16/2004
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments

Cataract Trail Photos

Trail Information

Mount Tamalpais Watershed
Nearby City
Mount Tamalpais Watershed
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Waterfalls
Features
Marin Municipal Water District, 220 Nellen Ave., Corte Madera, CA 94925; (415) 945-1180 (ranger) or (415) 945-1400 (customer service); marinwater.org
Local Contacts
USGS Bolinas CA; Marin Municipal Water District/Mount Tamalpais Watershed trail map available online at marinwater.org/ DocumentCenter/View/160 (black and white) or www.marinwater.org/DocumentCenter/ View/159 (color)
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018