Hiking near the waterfalls of Marin County’s Cataract Trail

The sound of rushing water floods your ears even before Cataract Creek is fully in view, descending the northern flank of Mount Tamalpais, California amid a riot of boulders, lush moss, graceful ferns and arching trees.

Prepare to be amazed by this magical place, where each step along the trail reveals some new variation on the blend of rocks and water responsible for a mile-and-a-half-long series of cascades known collectively as Cataract Falls.

Like coastal creeks around the North Coast that have been replenished by regular rainfall this winter, the popular Marin County falls have been at peak performance in recent weeks, drawing crowds to a remote canyon in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed for the kind of dramatic spectacle only Mother Nature does this well.

Part of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed, the area is overseen by the Marin Municipal Water District and open to the public without charge, although land managers hope the public will exercise the restraint necessary to protect the ecosystem and the water supply it provides. Swimming or otherwise entering the water is prohibited, and hikers must stay on the trails to avoid trampling plants and wildlife.

Cataract Falls is accessible from several different starting points, though many people choose to start at the bottom, near Alpine Lake and Fairfax-Bolinas Road.

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