Redwoods, wooden bridges, a trailside stream, and lush greenery galore … Marin County’s Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve has lots of bragging rights, including a terrific 2.4-mile (round-trip) hike to a marquee grotto, Dawn Falls.
From the trailhead at Madrone Avenue, follow the Baltimore Canyon Dawn Falls Trail upstream alongside Larkspur Creek. Baltimore Canyon glistens after rains: a thriving mix of madrone, bay, big-leaf maple, and second-growth redwoods make the forest delightful when damp (just wear proper footwear). The trail meanders mostly flat, with gentle undulations. Cross over charming footbridges and hike among redwoods, including a particularly photo-worthy stand of these sky-reaching beauties. Towards the end of the hike the creek flow may taper a little, and you’ll come to a large rock where the trail veers left and upwards—for a short and steep section (mind your footwork if it’s raining; this can be slick).
Within minutes you’re at the main attraction, Dawn Falls, flowing 30 feet over a rock ledge surrounded by green ferns and mossy flanks. This waterfall has the most gusto after strong rains and loses luster by spring, making winter an ideal time to go. Dawn good hike!
NOTE: Due to recent storms it’s best to check the website before going, to find out any updates on the trails at Baltimore Canyon. From SF, cross the Golden Gate and go north on 101 for 6 miles. Take Tamalpais Dr. exit and head west to Corte Madera Ave./Magnolia Ave. Turn right onto Magnolia and drive half a mile, then left on Madrone Ave. Keep left at the fork, following Madrone Ave. to its end. Trailhead is on the left side. Parking area is very small, with room for just a handful of cars. Because it’s a short hike, patience can pay off for a spot, or drive around the neighborhood to find nearby parking. Map and info available at the trailhead. Dog-friendly!