Where can you find a nearly mile-long series of waterfalls right here in the Bay Area? Look no farther than the north flank of Mount Tam. Every winter, Cataract Falls transforms into a long stretch of fast-charging flows, churning and tumbling with such spectacular force that it’s hard not to let out a huge ‘whoo-hoo’ when you see them. The roar of the falls fills Cataract Canyon, an ideal place to hike, especially when it’s raining. Starting at Alpine Dam, a 1.6 mile (one-way) narrow trail threads through ferns and redwoods along Cataract Creek. The first mile is a waterfall wonderland—at least half a dozen flows follow in short order, snap-crackle fast. Continue along the creek following the wooden and stone stairs to discover new surprises; falls just keep appearing around every corner, each about 20–30 feet high. Go with the flow!
The Cataract Trail is on Marin Municipal Water District land (map). From Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Fairfax, turn left onto Pacheco and immediately right onto Broadway. Turn left on Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. (aka Bolinas Rd.) and drive 8 miles to Alpine Dam. Cross the dam and park at one of the dirt pullouts within .1 mile of the dam. The trailhead is up on the left. Dog-friendly!