Hike the Cataract Trail Loop

Rock Springs Parking Area - Search Nearby - 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.

Distance

9.02 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

1428 ft Gain

Type

Loop

Activities

Photography, Hiking

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

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Community Photos

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Phenomenal escape to nature

This is on my top ten hikes ever. Gorgeous in springtime- waterfalls flowing, wildflowers, vibrant green hillsides. We walked through redwood groves, past waterfalls and across beautiful hillsides that could have been in the swiss alps. Beautiful! Don't miss.

Great Scenery

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!

You'll love who you are when you are in Marin!

Marin County is just a little out there. As in one famous bridge away from San Francisco. And right next door to the vineyards and Napa and Sonoma. Closer than you could ever imagine to everything that's unique in this clever corner of California. Take a vacation from the typical vacation

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