Carson Falls

Mt Tamalpais / Marin County, California, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 2.5
Carson Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



[Back to top]

INTRODUCTION

Carson Falls is another series of waterfalls (though not as extensive a series as the nearby Cataract Falls).

Because it sits near the top of the drainage around Pine Hill and Oat Hill (part of the Mt Tamalpais drainage), I suspect this waterfall has a short season. We visited in the heavy rainfall year of 2010 in April and saw decent flow, but not as much as I had seen in the literature (like on our Ann Marie Brown book).

As for the falls itself, there's a topmost tier, which consists of two minor plunges (I'm guessing about 20-30ft in total height for this section). I happened to see some blooming larkspur flowers fronting this section of the waterfall. Below that section, the falls then descends down an attractive 20-30ft drop before going down a few more cascades, and then finally a dramatic 40-50ft drop into a shadowy, well-forested cove.

Beyond this falls, stream continues cascading down minor drops and rapids, but they're not photogenic. I actually did hike to the very bottom and didn't find it particularly worth it except that it was quite peaceful and naturesque down there.

A lizard I saw along the trail The 3.5-mile hike begins at a car park right across the Fairfax-Bolinas Road from the gated Pine Mountain Fire Road. I actually had to hike on the fire road, which was totally exposed to the sun as it ascended up a minor hill, then dropped briefly before making a longer climb up to the summit of the Pine Hill Road near some telephone lines. It was along this stretch of the trail that I was treated to nice views of the northern San Francisco Bay, a country club near the town of Fairfax below, and even a view of Alpine Lake when I looked towards the southwest.

There were also mountain bikers sharing the Pine Mountain Road. I saw a few of them scream by me as they were gunning it down the road from its apex near the phone lines. I generally stayed to the sides of the road to avoid a collision.

Beyond the apex of Pine Mountain Road, there was a signed junction with Oat Hill Road. I took the Oat Hill Road on the left (another fire road) downhill towards the next signed junction with the Carson Falls trail itself. This was actually the new Carson Falls trail thanks to some public funding that went into the trail restoration project that completed some time in 2009. Thus, the old trail, which more closely followed the telephone lines down to the falls, was closed during my visit.

The Carson Falls trail continued to descend passing briefly through a small grove of trees before being exposed to the open sun again. By that time, I was right at the uppermost of the Carson Falls series. The trail then crossed a bridge above the top of the falls and curled around towards two more overlooks showcasing the next tiers of the falls.

The trail kept descending beyond the last viewing spots for Carson Falls, but it turned out that it wasn't necessary to proceed further since the falls was my goal of the hike. I wasn't sure where that trail kept going, but it moved away from the falls the further it down it went. And the whole time I descended, I had to keep in mind that all that I had to regain all that elevation back on the return.




[Back to top]

PHOTO JOURNAL

Nice view looking towards the northern San Francisco BayNice view looking towards the northern San Francisco Bay
Looking back at the middle tiers of Carson Falls from a lower vantage pointLooking back at the middle tiers of Carson Falls from a lower vantage point
Mt Tamalpais is reachable from the north side of the San Francisco Bay, which meant that it was possible to cross the scenic Golden Gate Bridge to get thereMt Tamalpais is reachable from the north side of the San Francisco Bay, which meant that it was possible to cross the scenic Golden Gate Bridge to get there
The famed Napa Valley was a little over an hour's drive northeast of Marin County, so it's understandable why it's so popular as many Bay Area residents spend their weekends up hereThe famed Napa Valley was a little over an hour's drive northeast of Marin County, so it's understandable why it's so popular as many Bay Area residents spend their weekends up here
The car parkThe car park

Mountain bikers approaching on the Pine Mountain RoadMountain bikers approaching on the Pine Mountain Road

Looking back down the Pine Mountain Fire Road that I had to ascendLooking back down the Pine Mountain Fire Road that I had to ascend

Looking back at the bay from the phone lines near the apex of Pine Mountain RoadLooking back at the bay from the phone lines near the apex of Pine Mountain Road

Signposted trail junction with Oat Hill RoadSignposted trail junction with Oat Hill Road

Descending the Oat Hill Fire RoadDescending the Oat Hill Fire Road

Wildflowers in bloom alongside the Carson Falls trailWildflowers in bloom alongside the Carson Falls trail

The new Carson Falls trailThe new Carson Falls trail

Briefly traversing through a grove of treesBriefly traversing through a grove of trees

The uppermost of the Carson FallsThe uppermost of the Carson Falls

Another look at the attractive middle tiers of Carson FallsAnother look at the attractive middle tiers of Carson Falls

Full view of the lowest section of the falls from the lowest overlookFull view of the lowest section of the falls from the lowest overlook

Some very minor cascades below the lowest overlookSome very minor cascades below the lowest overlook (when I investigated where the trail kept going to)

Looking at the context of the fallsLooking at the context of the falls

Closure barricades and signs for the old trailClosure barricades and signs for the old trail

Some wildflowers flanking the trail as I headed back up to Oat Hill RoadSome wildflowers flanking the trail as I headed back up to Oat Hill Road

Looking towards the canyon that the old Carson Falls trail used to go throughLooking towards the canyon that the old trail used to go through

Looking down at Alpine Lake on the return hikeLooking down at Alpine Lake on the return hike


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up sweep of the topmost tier of the falls with larkspurs blooming in the foreground


Top down sweep of the upper section of the main falls from the upper overlook


Top down sweep from the top of the falls to the base of the falls from the lowest overlook


[Back to top]

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Since we came from Cataract Falls to get to the car park for Carson Falls, we can say that the trailhead is on the Fairfax-Bolinas Road a little over 4 miles east of the trailhead for Cataract Falls or about 5 miles west on the Bolinas Road from Fairfax. Even though the car park is unsigned for the falls, it's a pretty large car park and it's near the apex of the Bolinas Road before it descends towards the dam responsible for Alpine Lake.

For some geographical context, Fairfax was 22 miles (45 minutes drive) north of San Francisco.




[Back to top]

ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS




[Back to top]

RELATED PAGES



Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.



[Back to top]

[Go to the Big Sur & Bay Area Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the California Page]

[Return from Carson Falls to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]