Cataract Falls Loop from Rock Spring

Marin County

Lesser-traveled loop with spectacular and varied scenery⁠—lush forest, open hillsides, and a cascading creek.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
9 km
Ascent
358 m
Descent
362 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
469 m
High Point
688 m
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Cataract Falls Loop from Rock Spring Map

Description

Cataract Creek is a very popular hiking destination near Mount Tamalpais. This loop includes some of the waterfalls on the creek, but also utilizes lesser-traveled trails to explore more of the mountain’s slopes. It begins from Rock Springs Trailhead which, unlike most trailheads in the area, this one has plentiful parking.

You’ll encounter many different forest types over the course of this loop. Tall stands of second-growth redwoods in the canyons, leafy maples and an understory of ferns near the creek, and oak woodlands on the hillsides. There’s also mountain meadows that grant wide-open views on clear days.

First you’ll come to the creekside picnic area at Laurel Dell and Cataract Falls just beyond. Next comes a scenic traverse of a hillside meadow on High Marsh Trail, then meandering through young redwood groves. You’ll find more flowing water in Swede George Creek, then climb an open ridgeline and come to another picnic area at Potrero Meadow. A patchwork of forest and field, with intermittent hilltop views, leads back to the starting point via Benstein Trail.

Sources: https://www.onetam.org/maps-trails/cataract-trail https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/471/files/MountTamalpaisSPFinalWebLayout110816.pdf

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area