Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Uncategorized Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail

-

Rushing cascades, Hobbit-like landscapes, and chill outdoor adventure in Marin

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail
Along the Cataract Loop Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

By Marke B.

JANUARY 3, 2015 – We need a lot more rain, but the storms we’ve had so far in Northern California have already led to a spectacular waterfall season. The Bay has several beloved (and somewhat secret) waterfall-centric day hikes I’ll be sharing as the season comes along. But on Saturday our hike-questing, get-out-of-Dodge eyes were caught by one in particular: the Cataract Trail, about halfway between Fairfax and Bolinas off the very windy Bolinas Road in Marin. (The trailhead comes almost right after you cross the very cool Alpine dam.) Cataracts in this sense are steep, small, stepped waterfalls — idyllic, rock-strewn rushing cascades — no, not the congenital blinding kind.  (But speaking of which, step away from your computer sometimes!)

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Along the Cataract Loop Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

The Cataract Trail itself is about 2.9 miles, and can get pretty crowded with oglers. (You may want want to find time to visit on a weekday if you’re looking for alone time — I don’t know if this hike is on “It’s Just Lunch” or what, but there was a multitude of cute-awkward straight couples there yesterday, goddess bless ’em.) So we decided to get a little more solitude and exercise by doing the longer 6-hour, 7.5-mile, moderate-difficulty loop that also encompasses High Marsh Trail, Kent Trail, and Helen Markt Trail. On a 56-degree, sunny January day, it was the right decision.

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Along the Cataract Loop Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

There’s so much opportunity for hiking in this area, that you can hike up to 11 miles, but remember to be prepared during the shorter daylight months to hustle a bit. And no matter what, don’t forget to pick up some fortifying sammies at Perry’s Delicatessen #3 in Fairfax along the way.

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail
This is the long, 11-mile version of the Cataract Loop Trail via Meetup, which explains all the cute Stanford students we ran into. But you can cut across Kent Trail for the version we did, which took 5-6 hours in total, including picnic stop.

Along the way, you’ll first pass a breathtaking array of cataracts as the swollen Cataract Creek burst through the hillside — very Hobbitland, and the required soundtrack in your head is a bit of Cocteau Twins.

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Along the Cataract Loop Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

After the (slippery) climb up the hill to the cataracts’ source, you’ll break into a bald green wonderland of Alpine meadow. Everyone eats over in Laurel Dell, but walk a bit up High Marsh Trail into the sunshine and look for Bald Knoll, where you can sit on the grass with a great view and tuck in.

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Along the Cataract Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

Then it’s all peaceful adventure as you pass through bright ochre madrone groves, towering redwood stands, alien moss formations, radioactive-green stagnant ponds, and the rippling azure splendor of manmade Alpine Lake, a huge reservoir.

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Along the Cataract Loop Trail near Bolinas. Photo by David Schnur

The loop path is pretty even until you start crossing several ravines near the end, which will give your upper thighs quite a workout. (Bring a pole, things get a bit muddy and slippery on the downslopes.)

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Alpine Lake. Photo by David Schnur

Of course, after six hours of breathtaking, and breath-catching, hiking, you certainly get to treat yourself to huge meal. (Say, Sardinian pasta at La Ciccia? Guilty.)

Hiking the Cataract Falls Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur
Alien sap-moss formation along the Cataract Loop Trail. Photo by David Schnur

The only wee bummer about the whole thing is that you’ll have to get your hands on a car to get there, as public transit is nil. So bring a bunch of woodsy-minded friends (one with wheels) along.

 

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

58 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Kiljoy, Trekking poles are most definitely used by folks living in Marin when hiking their own trails.

  2. Please….stay out of Marin. We have enough of the weekend traffic you cause. You will know us locals on the trails, we are the ones not surprised to see sap on trees and we won’t need a “pole” to hike our trails. Yes, the majority awkward straight people.

  3. Anita, if the problem was just crowds, Marke could just have said that and not tried to classify the crowd.

    But he specifically singled out STRAIGHT people, as if that was what was definingly offensive about them. The implication is that if those same crowds had been gay (as Marke is) then that would have been fine and not “awkward” at all.

    Why mention sexual orientation at all. It’s not as if straight people are rare. They are the overwhelming majority of the planet.

  4. Using “awkward” and “straight” i the same sentence is clearly pejorative.

    Change it around a little and you will get it:

    “I was having brunch the other day in the Marina and there were some awkward looking blacks in there”.

  5. Agreed. The only thing snide and prejudicial here is the resident troll. He’ll find a way to take a dump on anything.

  6. For the record, I didn’t read this comment as “snide” or “prejudicial”, but rather as an entry in the list of living things one might encounter on the trail. Made me smile to know that couples are looking for love in the out of doors. Made me think, if I don’t want crowds, I should go on a week day.

  7. It’s not adding color to make an off-topic dig at a class of people based on their sexual orientation. Would it be equally colorful to report that I see a lot of “awkward” gay couples or in SF?

    There was a girl at SFBG who used to always do that in her write-ups of music shows. Can’t recall her name now but she would write things like “the crowd was very surprisingly animated considering that they were mostly white”.

    Thinking about it more, weren’t you the copywriter at SFBG before you were fired? I’m sensing a pattern here of inserting snide stereotypes into non-political pieces.

  8. “there was a multitude of cute-awkward straight couples there yesterday, goddess bless ‘em.”

    Do you absolutely have to insert a snide and prejudicial comment like that into a piece about waterfalls?

    It’s possible we’re interested in your nature hikes. We certainly don’t want to hear yet another cheap biased attempt at identity politics.

More by this author

Oakland’s As You Like It label rises from promise to musician Johnny Igaz

10 years in, the party crew launches platform to support Bay Area artists—inspired by member gone too soon

Still broke and roasted at 40: a lightning round with Broke-Ass Stuart

How many times has this media mogul eaten at French Laundry? We ask the tough questions before his celebrity birthday roast.

Historic coalition of local independent publications aims to Save SF News

15 community outlets band together for monthlong fundraiser to keep producing essential journalism. Donate now!

A gonzo guide to great gifts (that will help local spots survive)

Everything you need: unique art, mouthwatering chocolates, radical guidebooks, nifty clothes, and brave women of color

Party Radar: Epic 3-day festival aims to Revive the Nightlife

All aboard this star-packed, fundraising online party train—it's time to save independent local dance floors.

Most read

SF COVID vaccine: Sign up to be notified when you’re eligible

Find out via email or text when you can contact your health provider (or public system) to get vaccinated.

Taxi drivers, disability-rights advocates oppose new Market St. traffic plan

Plus: UC Regents vote on huge new project -- and Willie Brown's Chronicle column will quietly disappear. That's The Agenda for Jan 19-26

Newsom budget hurts environmental justice programs

Shouldn't utilities -- not communities of color -- be paying for better fire prevention?

Bay View editor may take legal action against private prison company

Keith Malik Washington charges that the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Geo Group retaliated after he contacted a reporter about a COVID outbreak in a halfway house.

You might also likeRELATED