Hike the Cataract Trail Loop
San Francisco › Rock Springs Parking Area
Added by Nicole Baran
This amazing hike is 45 minutes from San Francisco and includes waterfalls, redwoods and a beautiful lake where you can stop to enjoy a packed lunch. A bit of a hidden gem, you and your hiking partner will be taking in nature on your own for a good chunk of this hike.
Duration: 3.5-4 hour hike at a moderate to quick pace with a short break for lunch.
Starting at an elevation of 1989ft and maxing at 2001ft, you achieve 1428 of elevation gain through a beautiful peak and valley hike.
From the free Rock Springs Parking Area, the basic trailheads to follow along with your trusty Mount Tamalpais map that you picked up at the Pantoll Station (on the way to Rock Springs Parking Area) are:
Cataract Trail to High Marsh Trail to Kent Trail to Helen Market Trail back to Cataract Trail. This is a lollipop hike with a short out and back at the beginning and end.
The details:From Rock Springs Parking, start at the Cataract Trail. Pass the Laurel Dell picnic tables and stay on the single track of Cataract Trail. The trail intersects with High Marsh just as the Cataract Trail starts to descend to Alpine Dam Lake. You will stay right at High Marsh. Continue on High Marsh until you hit Kent Trail, at which point you will turn left onto Kent trail. Stay left at Kent trail (when it intersects with Stocking trail). When you get close to the lake, you will take a left onto Helen Market Trail. You will cross a beautiful bridge over a spring and continue up Helen Market until you hit Cataract Trail again at which point you will turn left onto Cataract Trail. Enjoy the falls and the creek and the steep stairs until you hit the intersection at High Marsh at which point you will turn right to stay on Cataract Trail and retrace your steps back to the Rock Spring Parking Area (passing Laurel Dell picnic area again, with the tables on your right).
Lunch spots: If you're an early morning person, you may want to bring snacks and then enjoy lunch at the picnic tables at Laurel Dell. Otherwise, take a lunch break at the picturesque Alpine Lake; there's a tree stump at the water's edge that can be a nice sitting spot.
- Hiking shoes or trail running shoes
- Plenty of water (I usually bring 100oz)
- Layers: light jacket, fleece, tank, shorts or leggings (depending on the day, so bring both- you can tell which ones to wear once you get to the parking lot and assess fog), gloves if it's cold
- Mount Tamalpais trail map. This is key! There are a couple of spots that can be a little tricky so you'll want to check your map to be sure. http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/... or swing by the Pantoll Station
- Leash for your dog, they give tickets
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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ReviewsLeave a Review
I did a little bit different of a loop that was 7.75 miles with 2,050 ft net evelation gain: cataract trail-Simmons-Benstein-Kent-Helen Markt-cataract. Very pretty and lunch at alpine lake is a must! This weekend (3/11/17) the trails were nice and dry from the beautiful weather we've had but the falls are full from all the prior rain!
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