The Best Dog Friendly Waterfall Hikes in the Bay Area: Hiking to Waterfalls in Marin County with Dogs

Home » The Best Dog Friendly Waterfall Hikes in the Bay Area: Hiking to Waterfalls in Marin County with Dogs

Looking for dog friendly waterfall hikes in the Bay Area? I have compiled three of the best waterfalls near San Francisco that you can hike to with your dog. These dog friendly hikes to waterfalls in Marin county are the perfect for beginner hikers and should be on your list of hiking to waterfalls in the Bay Area with dogs!

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Dog friendly waterfall hikes in Bay Area

If you are looking for dog friendly hiking trails to waterfalls in the Bay Area, then you are in luck because this part of California has several gorgeous waterfall hikes near San Francisco waiting for you to explore and several of these Bay Area hiking trails with waterfalls allow dogs on them.


In this post, I will be talking about 3 fantastic dog friendly waterfall hikes in the Bay Area which are all in Northern California’s beautiful Marin County, north of the Golden Gate bridge.


These waterfall hikes in Marin are a mere 20 min-1 hour away from San Francisco and are perfect as day trips from SF. Marin county, with its beautiful cities of Sausalito (very dog friendly), Tiburon and Larkspur, is one of the best winter getaways in California due to the diverse attractions (urban and nature) that it offers.


These dog friendly Bay Area waterfalls are include dog friendly hiking trails leading to Cataract falls at Mt. Tamalpais, Cascade falls in Mill Valley and Dawn Falls in Larkspur. Cataract Falls is special because it is the only waterfall hike that is dog friendly amidst all Mt. Tam hikes.


Cascade Falls is located in a tranquil park in Mill Valley and is the easiest of all Bay Area hiking trails with waterfalls. Finally, Dawn Falls trail in Larkspur is a great alternative to the crowded and popular Muir woods. So let’s get on to this post that talks about these favorite dog friendly waterfalls near San Francisco!


Dog friendly waterfall hikes near San Francisco




Waterfall hikes in the Bay Area: Cataract Falls, Mt. Tamalpais

Hike details:  6.4 miles loop from the trailhead to the falls

Hike type: Beginner to intermediate (the terrain is mostly flat)

Trail cover: Mostly open, shaded in parts

Best time to visit: Feb/March (spring)

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Bay Area receives a lot of winter rain (which might seem a bit unusual to you) but that means only one thing and that is gushing Bay Area waterfalls in spring. If you visit Bay Area during winter/spring (check out these fantastic winter getaways in California for more inspiration) and are an avid hiker seeking hiking to waterfalls,  then you definitely should get onto the dog friendly Cataract falls trail!


Your Cataract Falls hike will begin at Mount Tamalpais, towering over Marin county with its slopes filled with spring flowers and beautiful hiking trails. This is also one of the best state parks near San Francisco to visit if you love the outdoors. Although most Mt. Tam hikes and  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 Cataract Falls marin county trail head, starting from the junction of east and west Ridgecrest leads to its namesake, i.e. the most beautiful and popular waterfall in the Marin county, namely Cataract Falls. The website  provides precise directions to get to the falls along the Cataract Falls trail.


Cataract falls hike is a strenuous one and is a total of 6.4 miles loop from the trailhead to the falls, and the trail is partly covered with regions of light (via open fields) and shade. Cataract falls 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. 


For the sake of your dog as well as your well being, it is advisable to start this Marin county waterfall hike 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 falls trail, you will eventually get to the falls with the help of several posted signs along the way. This is definitely one of the best waterfall hikes in the Bay Area we’ve been to and I highly recommend it to seasoned hikers with dogs looking for hiking to Bay Area waterfalls.


There is a picnic area just before you reach Cataract 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).


Cataract Falls in Marin is a dog friendly waterfall hike

dog friendly waterfall hikes near San Francisco

Cataract Falls hike in Mt. Tam




Bay Area waterfall hikes with dogs: Cascade falls, Mill Valley

Hike details:  3 miles from downtown Mill Valley, ~1 mile from the Cascade Falls sign on Cascade drive

Hike type: Beginner to intermediate 

Trail cover: Shaded

Best time to visit: Feb/March (spring)

Cascade Falls is in a small park in Mill Valley, one of the several beautiful small towns in Marin county and is the waterfall nearest to San Francisco. True to its 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. Despite lack of signs on who can access the trail, the Cascade falls trail is dog friendly and you will see manly locals in the park with their pups.


This is one of the most accessible dog friendly waterfall hikes in Bay Area and can be easily completed in a few hours. The Cascade Falls trail is covered with a dense canopy of trees and so hiking to this Bay Area waterfall is easy. The upward trail ends at a paved road for cyclists and cars, so please watch out if you have your dog with you and remember to leash him/her before you hit the road.


Overall, I highly recommend this dog friendly waterfall in Marin, along with many other spectacular dog friendly hikes in Marin county such as the following:

Dog friendly waterfalls, Cascade falls

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Dog friendly hikes to waterfalls near San Francisco: Dawn Falls, Larkspur

Hike details:  2.7 miles loop to the falls and back

Hike type: Beginner

Trail cover: Shaded

Best time to visit: Feb/March (spring)

The Dawn falls trail in Larkspur, Marin County is a beginner’s trail that leads right to a beautiful waterfall that comes alive during spring. The trail leading to the dog friendly waterfall is a relatively easy one with a 2.7 miles loop to the falls and back and is located in one of the lesser known Redwood groves in the Bay Area


This is one of the best dog friendly waterfall hikes in the Bay Area and is pretty much a hidden gem, known only to locals. Since the trail is pretty shaded by a thick canopy of Redwood trees, hikes in the summer are also pretty doable.


It takes about 30 minutes to drive to Madrone Avenue from San Francisco, where the Dawn Falls trailhead (you can also find it on Google Maps) is located. Although parking is difficult to find on the narrow, meandering Madrone Avenue,  we did not struggle too much with it during both our visits. Come early and try to find parking on the side of the road, preferably before a  “no outlet street Echo Place”  sign as suggested by Yelper Caroline S.



Once you get off the road you will find a bridge across the Larkspur creek from where the Dawn trail begins. You can either walk along the upper trail or get down to a parallel path with the Larkspur creek flowing to your right. The falls are on your right if you walk along the upper trail.


For those planning to take dogs on this waterfall hike in Marin, please carry ample water and food for your pups. Goes without saying that you need to wear sturdy footwear, especially in spring when the ground gets all wet and slippery. On your way back from the hike, don’t forget to stop by Picco’s, a dog friendly pizzeria in downtown Larkspur for some tasty pizza to fill your bellies.

Waterfall Hikes in Bay Area: Dawn Falls Trail, Larkspur

Dawn Falls Trail, Larkspur is one of the best dog friendly waterfall hikes in Marin County

hikes leading to waterfalls in the Bay Area




Other dog friendly things to do in Marin County

Marin County is brimming with dog friendly hikes, beaches and other attractions. Besides these dog friendly waterfall hikes, definitely check out one or more of these spots in Marin that welcome dogs:

  1. Enjoy the views at Muir Beach lookout
  2. Spend a beautiful day in dog friendly Sausalito
  3. Marvel at the panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands
  4. Check out the most scenic dog friendly hike in Tiburon
  5. Explore miles of coastal hiking trails in Marin county for scenic views



 I hope you enjoyed reading this post on dog friendly waterfall hikes in the Bay Area, which is one the many dog friendly hiking trails in SF Bay Area. Thank you so much for stopping by and I hope this post has inspired you to explore the beautiful outdoors in the Bay Area with your pup! You can read all our California adventures right here!




Looking for hikes to gushing waterfalls in the San Francisco Bay Area that are also dog friendly? Then read this dog mom's guide to three such dog friendly hiking trails in SF Bay area that lead to gorgeous waterfalls. #sanfrancisco #sfbayarea #USA #california #dogfriendlyhikes #dogfriendlytravel #hikingwithdogs #dogfriendlyhiking #hikingtrails #bayareahiking #waterfallhikesbayarea



12 thoughts on “The Best Dog Friendly Waterfall Hikes in the Bay Area: Hiking to Waterfalls in Marin County with Dogs”

  1. Cascade falls looks amazing! And Cataract Falls sounds like a great hike too! Around 6 miles is a sweet spot for us. Just long enough to get the dogs’ energy out and to feel like we got a good workout in ourselves too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. LOVE the picture of you two together. It says happy hiking doesn’t it.

    A lovely post, and I love the pictures, it’s almost lie being there!

  3. I love hiking waterfall trails. We’ve done most of the close by ones. This summer has been so dry though I don’t think they’re as dramatic as they normally are!

  4. I love water falls. We have quite a few beautiful water falls in the upper part of South Carolina. Some are easy to get to and others not so much. I’m not sure how many are pet friendly.

  5. The picture of you and Babu on the wooden bridge is such a keeper. You both look so happy having fun exploring all the trails. Even though there are trails not open to dogs, I love that there are enough that are to add variety to the list of activities pet owners can try out.

  6. Those look like some great hikes! My absolute favorite reason to go hiking is to end up at a waterfall. I am always looking for more places to travel with my dog and see a waterfall or two.

  7. I love hiking to waterfalls, and getting to see the terrain in parts of the country other than my own (Virginia). What a beautiful place! Your dog looks quite at home there, too. I’ve never taken my dogs on a strenuous hike (seems most waterfall hikes around here are; the last one I did was nearly straight down for 2 miles). Keep enjoying the great outdoors!

  8. I love making my way to hikes that offer a water source of some kind! My dogs love to play in it, and so do my kiddos! These look beautiful!


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