Hike Cataract Falls

San Francisco Cataract Falls

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1020 Feet

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall

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

Cataract Falls is one of the most stunning hikes in the bay area after a recent rain. The drive to the trailhead alone is beautiful as you pass Alpine Lake on Bolinas Fairfax Rd. Cataract 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 the hike, which are scattered throughout the rest of the trek. 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're looking for the bathrooms, they're at the top.

Pack List

  • Trail or hiking shoes
  • Athletic clothes
  • Water
  • Camera
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Reviews

Overall rating: 

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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.

5 months ago
5 months ago

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.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Hiked the trail on 1/26/2016. The falls are spectacular. Due to recent rains, the water was running fast and hard. I love both the sight and sound. That being said, the hike is not for the faint of heart or weak of knees. The trail is nearly straight up with few switchbacks. Much of it is climbed with stairs. The oden stairs were good but slippery due to mud. The rise on many of the stone stairs is high; the people who hewed them must have legs as long as I am tall! Anyway, if you have strong legs and a good cardio system, this trail is worth the effort.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I just did this hike again yesterday (1/16/16) and the water is rushing because of the recent rain - it's quite spectacular!! If raining, I would definitely recommend a water proof backup and actual hiking boots that are rain proof. I did the hike in running shoes and it was quite slippery and my feet were very cold and wet by the end. My backpack was soaked through and my change of dry clothes were dry no longer. Also, if coming from San Francisco, I would leave no later than 8am so parking is easy

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Cataract is one of my favorite bay area hikes, but only during the week/offseason. Weekends and holidays see so much action up these epic steps you feel like you've inadvertently entered into some kind of competition. Once you reach the top, you're connected to a handful of options to wind your way back down the mountain, as well as a great picnic area perfect for throwing up a hammock for an early afternoon snooze. Best of all, the trail is dog friendly, with no need to surreptitiously conceal one's 3lb traveling companion in one's backpack.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

My last review said not great for trail running - awesome for hiking!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Take the trip back slowly and be sure footed. No need to rush, especially with how beatiful it is. Would not recommend for trail running

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

This is an amazing hike with a great payoff at the end. Be sure to bring some water and read up on it a little before - not too difficult but a little more strenuous than a lot of the Marin hikes

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Bring your trekking poles!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Make sure you go on a rainy week - it won't disappoint!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Great hike! I prefer it on cooler days as it gets hot specially when you get up to areas with no shades. Bring water; it's a journey and a half (it was for me and the wifey).

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Great hike. 9 little waterfalls. Be careful parking. Make sure you don't block any part of road. Saw 4 cars with tickets.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Water levels are good right now. Lots of steps and is mostly uphill.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Absolutely stunning.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

uphill to an epic view

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

hiked this bad boy the other weekend, its pretty hard core! I would go in the winter when the falls will be a bit more cascading

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

Did the falls in the summer and while the falls weren't at full power, it was still a beautiful hike. If you make it to Rock Spring, there's a great view across the bay to the city, Golden Gate, and the ocean. Highly recommend.

over 3 years ago
over 3 years ago

I hiked the cataract falls trail this weekend and loved it. The reservoir and waterfalls are beautiful.

about 4 years ago
about 4 years ago

I would bring a camera to take pictures because the scenery is breathtaking... After you pass the waterfall you can continue further for a longer hike.

about 4 years ago
about 4 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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