Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike. The start of the hike is on a wide-open dirt fire road that offers up southern views of Mount Tam’s East Peak and the rolling Marin foothills.
Hike up this fire road for about a mile, with no waterfall in sight. You’ll then leave the fire road and dip into a dense forest on a singletrack trail. Hear that? Waterfalls are a-comin’! A series of short switchbacks leads you to the top of the falls. A rocky outcropping lets you get a closer look, but from up here you only get a partial perspective.
So be sure to cross over the old wooden bridge and make your way down to the base of the second tier, where the vantage is bigger and bolder. You can carry on to one more tier below, but after rains this section can get boggy with mud, and the trail may be closed off beyond that point. Return the way you came.
From Highway 101 in Marin, exit Sir Francis Drake Blvd. toward San Rafael. Go about 6 miles to the town of Fairfax. Turn left on Pacheco, immediately right on Broadway, then left on Bolinas Rd. Follow this for 3.8 miles (go past the turn-off for Bon Tempe Lake and past the golf course). Park in the large pullout on the left (it fits about 20 cars.) Cross the road and go through the gate and up the fire road; this is Pine Mountain Fire Road. When the road levels after a mile, turn left onto Oat Hill Fire Road. Hike 0.25-mile to Carson Falls Trail on the right. Follow this down 0.25-mile to the falls. Dog-friendly!