Cataract Falls

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Just down the “road” (Panoramic Hwy) from Muir Woods, the hiking trails continue to weave through Mt. Tamalpais State Park. I organized this hike to Cararact Falls as a ladies-only (no partners, no kids) day trip, with women who all had only me in common! It was a beautiful day and we had a great time – be on the lookout for another ladies-only trip in the fall!

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Where we parked to start the trail.

To get to the beautiful Cataract Falls, you drive from Panoramic Hwy down Pan Toll Road, which will take you to Ridgecrest Blvd. For a longer trek, park in the parking area where Pan Toll meets Ridgecrest. For a shorter route (which we took), stop here for the bathrooms and then take West Ridgecrest Blvd. to the left of the parking area. You’ll have to be on the lookout on your right at about 1.5 miles down W. Ridgecrest to see a little parking area (that almost looks like a pullout) at Laurel Dell Rd. (a fire road). This is where we parked and started our ~3 mile hike.

Why we love it:

  • So. many. falls! If you begin the route at Laurel Dell Rd, taking it down until you get onto the Cataract trail (look for a trail sign at the bottom of the road, head right, then over the bridge, and head left along Cataract Creek), you will start at the top of the falls and see them go on and on until what looks like a small finger lake. This is where we turned around and made our way back up, but you can turnaround at any time!
  • Lots of cover from the trees above once you get to Cataract trail!
  • Plenty of places to have a picnic on rocks all along the way.
  • The trail may be short, but you’ll get a leg workout going back up, up, up along the falls!

For the Young Ones (0-10): This is a trail for those young ones you trust will follow directions. While I would fully trust my six year-old on this trail, I know plenty of six year-olds who wouldn’t make safe choices along the falls. Aside from safety concerns, some of the steps up/down may be a bit challenging for short legs. If you have a little one who is perfectly content in a carrier, I would wear a kiddo on this trail without hesitation.

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For the Big Kids (10+): I think this trail gets a full-on “heck yeah!” from the teen sector, but I’m a mom in my late 30s so maybe that wouldn’t be the chosen slang. Regardless, these falls will get a significant thrill rating from older kids.

Keep in Mind:

  • The trail was really populated the Sunday we were there. Not so much as to be annoying, but we certainly weren’t close to being alone – and this means parking is more scarce.
  • Trekking poles are particularly helpful on hikes where you go down, down, down and then up, up, up. Save those knees and help yourself out – bring them if you have them.
  • This trail may not be best for non-compliant little kids, and it may be better to wait a few years.

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Around the Area: We headed into Mill Valley and filled our bellies at Playa. While we weren’t their typical clientele and the prices were a bit steep, it sure was tasty!

Difficulty Level: Moderate.

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