California has no dearth of hiking trails, but it gets even better if one leads to a gorgeous water fall. To top it off, if the waterfall hiking trails are dog-friendly, you have a definite win-win in your hands. In this post, I will be talking about two such waterfall hiking trails that are moderate and great fun to cover with your pooch. They lead to two splendid waterfalls and are best viewed in spring when the winter rains have brought in enough water to the bay area.
WATERFALL HIKING TRAILS: CATARACT FALLS
If you are visiting the city in spring, you’d be much advised to keep driving further up towards Mount Tamalpais, towering over Marin county with its slopes filled with spring flowers and beautiful waterfall hiking trails. Although the state park itself is forbidden for four legged kids, a short drive up reveals the watershed area, where dogs can be on leash. The trail head, starting from the junction of east and west Ridegcrest leads to the most beautiful and popular waterfall in the Marin county, namely Cataract Falls.
The website bahiker.com describes in great detail about the different trails in this region and provides precise directions to get to the falls. To see the falls gushing in full force, its best to visit in Feb/March just after the spring rains. Its a 6.4 miles loop from the trail head to the falls, and the trail is moderately strenuous with regions of light and shade. Its advisable to start early so that the sun does not beat down too much on you. Wear appropriate hiking gear and footwear and carry some water and light snacks for the hike. If you stay on the cataract trail, you will eventually get to the falls with the help of some posted signs along the way.
Starting the hike early is a good idea since it helps you snag a parking spot in the tiny lot. The trail head starts from an open, sunny meadow with flowers all around and then quickly moves into a stony terrain interspersed with wooden bridges that you have to cross to keep on going. There is a picnic area just before you reach the falls, so if you are enthusiastic enough, you can carry some brown bag lunch with you. Finally, once you reach the fall, the descent becomes steep, but you can get down all the way to the gurgling stream or make your way up through the rocks to face the falls. We saw one of the dogs having a field day swimming in the stream whereas our little one was content in watching from the sides (he is not a big fan of water). The falls, although much more subdued due to a continuing dry spell when we visited, still gushed down and gurgled over the rocks. The current appeared to be pretty strong as the water plunged down and into the creek below. The sight of the white, foamy water as it fell with great force over the rocks, was so beautiful to behold that it made is forget all our sweat and huffing and puffing.
WATERFALL HIKING TRAILS: CASCADE FALLS
Cascade falls is in a small park in Mill Valley, a short drive away from San Francisco. True to it’s name, Cascade falls is a a beautiful cascading body of water, and although a small fall, the water was gushing in full force thanks to the winter rain! There is a path that leads up from the falls and the trail winds up further. This hike is moderately strenuous but watch out for the loose rocks. We did not see any signs of dogs being prohibited from entering and saw several locals with their pooches heading up there and so were very happy to take our Babu with us.
The trees form a thick canopy and so the trails are protected by a nice patch of shade. The upward trail ends at a paved road for cyclists and cars, so please watch out if you have your dog with you. Overall, I highly recommend this spot, only half an hour away from the city, for hiking and visiting the beautiful waterfall. For more information, visit this article in SFgate from 2014.
For more dog-friendly hiking ideas, read my post on Dawn fall trail in Larkspur here.