Some hikes have it all: waterfalls, wildflowers, and wowing views. Right now, Mount Tam’s wild north side offers a boon of spring’s best on a 6.5-mile (round-trip) hike that starts at 2,000 feet. From the Rock Springs trailhead, you’ll immediately connect to the Cataract Trail and head north through a forest thick with Douglas fir, oak, and mossy boulders. That path parallels Cataract Creek the entire time, passing the quiet Laurel Dell picnic area. Soon after, the swift-moving creek turns to a rushing, roaring spectacle: Cataract Falls (pictured) is one of the best waterfall displays in the Bay Area, and recent rains have it going all-out. The journey veers onto the lightly used High Marsh Trail. Traverse the exposed and steep Bare Knoll, with broad views of the rolling Marin hills. Poppies, lupine, and blue dicks add dashes of décor to the landscape. Dip back into an evergreen forest and wind up and down for a few miles, keeping an eye out for Douglas iris wildflowers. Make a right up the Kent Trail and follow it to peaceful Portrero Meadows, a popular place for picnic table lunch breaks. Finish the loop on the Benstein Trail. Simply Tamtastic.
Park at Mount Tam’s Rock Springs trailhead (map). Follow the Cataract Trail for 1.5 miles, passing the Laurel Dell picnic area. When you reach the High Marsh Trail, follow the steps down for a view of Cataract Falls, then turn around and continue on the High Marsh Trail. In 2 miles, reach the Kent Trail and turn right. Follow it for 1 mile to Potrero Meadows. Briefly follow a fire road uphill until it ends at another fire road. Turn left and in 50 feet turn right onto the signed Benstein Trail. This returns to the trailhead. Dog-friendly!