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Cataract Falls

Stinson Beach, California

based on 23 reviews



2.81 miles

Elevation Gain

1184 ft

Route Type



Added by Griffin Moon

Cataract Falls is a good workout on the 3 mile out-and-back hike (if you go all the way to the top) located in the Marin Municipal Water District in Marin County, California. There are many great spots for a photo op, so be sure to bring your camera.

The Bay Area is home to many beautiful waterfalls, but Cataract Falls located about an hour north of San Francisco is one of the most stunning. Be sure to head out on this hike after a recent rain.

The Trail 

Cataract Falls is a 3-mile total out-and-back hike that gains 750ft in the first mile. Unlike Alamere Falls, where you trek for 4 miles to get to the falls, you start to see cascading waterfalls early on in this hike, and continue to see more scattered throughout the rest of the trail. Most of the hike is shaded, but you can end up shedding layers pretty quickly since you’re climbing uphill the first 1.5 miles. 

If you need a restroom break, there is public restroom at the top of the trail as you reach Laurel Dell Rd. This trail is dog friendly on-leash. 


Parking at the trailhead is limited, so it's best to do this trail on a weekday or early on the weekend. An alternative parking area is at the top of the trail on Laurel Dell Rd, where there is also a public restroom. 

Getting There

The drive to the trailhead alone is beautiful as you pass Alpine Lake on Bolinas Fairfax Rd. From downtown Fairfax, take Bolinas Rd southwest and continue along it as it turns into Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. Trailhead will be on your left as you pass Alpine Road. The drive from downtown Fairfax is just over 8 miles. 

Contact Information

Sky Oaks Ranger Station: (415) 945-1180

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Dog Friendly


We were planning to hike to Alamere Falls, but the roads were closed. We ended up at Cataract Falls for a quick hike. The lake a nice, but not swimmable, and there is a small waterfall.

Beautiful waterfalls! We definitely lucked out on the weekend we decided to go since it was clear, but it was after it had rained a few days 😊 Definitely challenging but totally doable trail!

Though the skill level says beginner, beware - this hike is more moderate due to the quick elevation gains, sets of stairs, and narrow walkways! Went yesterday and loved this hike. Note that bathrooms aren't directly at the top of the falls (and Cataracts Falls themselves aren't clearly marked - they're the falls with a pool below them right before the trail marker to keep getting to Alpine Lake). Beautiful scenery and awesome views of Bolinas, Stinson, the ocean if you hike up to Ridgecrest Road at the very top. Bring layers as it gets quite chilly in the shade, and lots of water - enjoy!

I loved this hike. Cataract Falls is one waterfall after another as you ascend 1,000 feet through some beautiful forest. Once at the top you can easily add more distance by following any of the trails at the top and looping back around.

Drive all the way from the city to find the road leading to the watershed closed.. still, even after a few months. Hopefully it opens soon.

Unfortunately the road (Fairfax-Bolinas Rd) is closed from W Ridgecrest Blvd. I'm not sure if the road is open approaching the trailhead from the east (driving through San Rafael & Fairfax) but as of 4/10/16 its your best bet for getting here!

You can park at the top or bottom of the trail. I prefer the parking at the bottom and getting the hard work out of the way in the beginning. This dog-friendly trail is enjoyable year-round, but best if you can get it just after a recent rain. I hiked here right after one of the big el niño storms and it was amazing to see the falls really flowing! This is a solid hike for a day date too. Make sure to hit up Gestalt Haus on the way back through Fairfax.

This great little hike has it all - beautiful scenery, a nice workout, and several spots to take some photos. Definitely one of my favorite hikes in the Bay Area, especially after some rain.

We loved this hike. It was slightly more uphill than we expected but was well worth it to see the falls at the end! We climbed down and saw the falls from the bottom too!

One of the most beautiful hikes in the Bay Area. Here's a video of the trail.. Enjoy.. https://www.facebook.com/tracy.rose.984/videos/10205887727527659/?pnref=story

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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