Cascade Falls

Mt Tamalpais / Fairfax, California, USA

About Cascade Falls


Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2010-04-09
Date last visited: 2019-04-19

Waterfall Latitude: 37.98457
Waterfall Longitude: -122.62255

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Cascade Falls is a pretty diminutive 20ft waterfall, but it was one of the “easier” waterfall hikes we did in Marin County.

Like with other waterfalls in this county, suburban developments fringed on the Elliott Nature Preserve, which this waterfall resided in.

Cascade_Falls_014_04092010 - Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls

The preserve sat at the end of the residential Cascade Drive (see directions below).

After finding parking in one of the limited spaces along Cascade Drive, we then walked to the end of the road, where a gate and a sign indicating the Elliott Nature Preserve welcomed us.

From there, a wide open trail descended past a sign and towards a fork.

The wider path on the left crossed San Anselmo Creek while the narrower path on the right (called the High Water Trail) skirted the same creek without crossing it.

Cascade Falls Trail Description – the Main Trail along San Anselmo Creek

Cascade_Falls_098_04192019 - The main trail to Cascade Falls involved crossing San Anselmo Creek at least twice
The main trail to Cascade Falls involved crossing San Anselmo Creek at least twice

After crossing San Anselmo Creek, the path entered a wooded area along the so-called Public Trail.

There were other trails branching off from this main trail to other camps or road accesses.

However, I generally followed the main path alongside San Anselmo Creek before reaching an opening and ultimately another crossing of the creek.

Since this trail was flatter, if San Anselmo Creek was running low, then it would be the more desirable path to take.

Cascade_Falls_088_04192019 - The Public Trail passing through an open area before merging with the High Water Trail shortly after the next crossing of San Anselmo Creek
The Public Trail passing through an open area before merging with the High Water Trail shortly after the next crossing of San Anselmo Creek

Generally, this option would be doable most of the time (requiring some nifty rock hopping to keep the feet dry).

However, if San Anselmo Creek happened to run high, then the High Water Trail would be the preferred alternate since it never has to cross the creek (hence the trail’s name).

Cascade Falls Trail Description – the High Water Trail along San Anselmo Creek

The High Water Trail began by skirting the banks of San Anselmo Creek.

Some of the narrowness, eroded sections, and undulations of the trail made me question whether this path was legitimate or not.

Cascade_Falls_011_04192019 - Following the so-called High Water Trail alongside San Anselmo Creek en route to Cascade Falls
Following the so-called High Water Trail alongside San Anselmo Creek en route to Cascade Falls

In any case, it seemed like this trail happened to be more trafficked than the main trail probably because of the creek crossing.

Anyways, true to its name, the High Water Trail climbs fairly high above the banks of San Anselmo Creek.

Eventually, the trail would descend and merge with the main trail just beyond the second creek crossing.

I’d argue that it’d still be wise to wear hiking boots on this High Water Trail given how easily eroded its banks can be.

Cascade_Falls_015_04192019 - The High Water Trail didn't have to cross San Anselmo Creek, but it was narrower, undulating, and prone to erosion
The High Water Trail didn’t have to cross San Anselmo Creek, but it was narrower, undulating, and prone to erosion

After all, it clings to the hills and embankments above San Anselmo Creek.

Cascade Falls Trail Description – the rest of the way to the waterfall

Both the High Water Trail and the main trail merge beyond the second crossing of San Anselmo Creek.

Then, the trail continues to follow along the creek as it makes another climb then descent towards a footbridge over Cascade Creek.

After crossing the footbridge over Cascade Creek at the bottom of this hill, the trail then reached another junction.

Cascade_Falls_021_04092010 - The footbridge over Cascade Creek, where the path continued to the right as it led up to Cascade Falls
The footbridge over Cascade Creek, where the path continued to the right as it led up to Cascade Falls

This time, the junction was between the San Anselmo Creek Trail and the Cascade Falls Trail. Keeping right at the junction, the trail then narrowed as it followed along Cascade Creek.

After another quarter-mile of slightly uphill hiking, we finally arrived at the Cascade Falls.

We best enjoyed the views of the falls from a rock outcropping with a pure frontal view of the dimunitive 20ft or so waterfall.

I also managed to get more angled views from what appeared to be a continuation of the trail going up towards Cascade Falls’ top.

Cascade_Falls_042_04192019 - Cascade Falls as seen in my April 2019 visit
Cascade Falls as seen in my April 2019 visit

Although I had read that it might be possible to scramble further upstream towards other waterfalls like the so-called Plunge Pool, the trail seemed to have disappeared beyond the top of Cascade Falls.

So I didn’t pursue this any further.

The Plunge Pool and Upper Cascade Falls

I actually took some time to explore whether it was worth going up and beyond the main Cascade Falls.

In order to attempt this, I had to backtrack on the Cascade Creek Trail to the footbridge and junction with the San Anselmo Creek Trail.

Cascade_Falls_065_04192019 - A fork in the trail downstream alongside San Anselmo Creek from the junction at the footbridge over Cascade Creek. The trail on the right was supposed to go up to the Plunge Pool and possibly the Upper Cascade Falls
A fork in the trail downstream alongside San Anselmo Creek from the junction at the footbridge over Cascade Creek. The trail on the right was supposed to go up to the Plunge Pool and possibly the Upper Cascade Falls

After briefly hiking the San Anselmo Creek Trail further downstream beyond the footbridge, the trail then forked.

This was where I took the uphill fork as it relentlessly climbed and rounded a bend in the general direction of the Cascade Creek.

I didn’t pursue this path any further when I realized that the trail seemed to move away from Cascade Creek for a significant stretch.

So that indicated to me that the Plunge Pool was still a ways away (possibly at least 1.5 miles or so in each direction).

Cascade_Falls_071_04192019 - The trail to the Plunge Pool climbed away from Cascade Creek before going another 1.5 miles or so to the upper waterfall on Cascade Creek, which I didn't end up doing
The trail to the Plunge Pool climbed away from Cascade Creek before going another 1.5 miles or so to the upper waterfall on Cascade Creek, which I didn’t end up doing

So I turned back and returned to the trailhead.

Overall, this excursion took me about 90 minutes (probably would have taken me only 60 minutes without pursuing the Plunge Pool).

Authorities

Cascade Falls resides in the Cascade Canyon Preserve and the trail runs through the Elliott Nature Preserve near San Rafaelin Marin County, California. It is administered by Marin County Parks. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Cascade_Falls_008_04192019 - Fork in the trail en route to Cascade Falls where going left would cross San Anselmo Creek and follow on what I called the 'main trail' (or Public Trail) while going right would take us on the High Water Trail.  Both trails eventually merge about half-way through the hike. This was as seen of my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_012_04192019 - Looking across San Anselmo Creek towards the Public Trail as seen from the High Water Trail during my April 2019 visit to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_013_04192019 - The High Water Trail followed along San Anselmo Creek, but it seemed pretty prone to erosion as it undulated along the contours of the hillside and embankment of the creek. I took the High Water Trail during my April 2019 visit to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_018_04192019 - Looking back at the second crossing of San Anselmo Creek as the High Water Trail was merging with the Public Trail (or main trail) en route to Cascade Falls during my visit in April 2019
Cascade_Falls_019_04192019 - After both the main trail and High Water Trail merged, there was still one more short hill to climb before it descended back down towards the confluence of Cascade Creek and San Anselmo Creek. This photo was taken during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_022_04192019 - Descended the hill after the merging of the main and High Water Trail en route to Cascade Falls as seen during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_024_04192019 - Some wildflowers blooming besides the Cascade Falls Trail as seen during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_031_04192019 - After crossing the bridge over Cascade Creek, I then took the trail following alongside Cascade Creek en route to Cascade Falls during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_037_04192019 - View of Cascade Falls as seen during my return visit in April 2019
Cascade_Falls_050_04192019 - Another look at Cascade Falls in its April 2019 flow
Cascade_Falls_056_04192019 - A different look at Cascade Falls as the trail appeared to lead to the top of the waterfall, but then the trail was harder to follow from there during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_060_04192019 - After having my fill of the Cascade Falls during my April 2019 visit, I then decided to briefly pursue the Plunge Pool, where I had to keep going past this bridge alongside the San Anselmo Creek
Cascade_Falls_064_04192019 - Following the San Anselmo Trail in pursuit of the Plunge Pool during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_068_04192019 - Checking out some of the wildflowers blooming alongside the spur trail leading to the Plunge Pool during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_073_04192019 - Looking at another wildflower blooming by the trail to the Plunge Pool during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_075_04192019 - Returning to the footbridge over Cascade Creek as I was heading back to the trailhead during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_077_04192019 - On the return hike after having had my fill of Cascade Falls in April 2019
Cascade_Falls_080_04192019 - Approaching a trail fork where I opted to keep right to go onto the main trail instead of going on the narrower trail on the left to go back on the High Water Trail after leaving Cascade Falls during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_081_04192019 - Crossing San Anselmo Creek to return from Cascade Falls via the main trail during my April 2019 hike
Cascade_Falls_083_04192019 - Hiking through the open area on the main trail on the return hike from Cascade Falls during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_086_04192019 - Looking across San Anselmo Creek towards the High Water Trail from the main Public Trail on the way back from Cascade Falls during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_092_04192019 - During the return hike from Cascade Falls, I decided not to take the High Water Trail. Instead, I followed the main trail, which took me through this wooded Public Trail during my April 2019 visit
Cascade_Falls_096_04192019 - Last crossing over San Anselmo Creek as I was very close to the trailhead for Cascade Falls towards the end of my April 2019 hike now
Cascade_Falls_103_04192019 - Back at the fence at the end of Cascade Drive to end my Cascade Falls visit in April 2019
Cascade_Falls_104_04192019 - Walking back to the parked car along Cascade Drive to end my April 2019 visit to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_001_04092010 - The end of Cascade Drive and the beginning of the Elliott Nature Preserve during our visit in April 2010. The rest of the photos in this gallery were taken on this day
Cascade_Falls_003_04092010 - Julie hiking along the High Water Trail alongside San Anselmo Creek during our April 2010 visit to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_004_04092010 - Julie traversing a minor creek crossing of San Anselmo Creek, which I believe took us off the High Water Trail and onto the main trail during our April 2010 visit to Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_011_04092010 - Looking at Cascade Falls in pretty healthy flow during our late afternoon visit in April 2010
Cascade_Falls_019_04092010 - Another look at Cascade Falls in its April 2010 flow
Cascade_Falls_025_04092010 - The narrowest part of the High Water Trail as we returned from Cascade Falls during our April 2010 visit
Cascade_Falls_024_04092010 - We spotted some wild turkey during our April 2010 hike

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The nearest town to Cascade Falls was the suburban town of Fairfax.

I’ll focus these driving directions from San Francisco since that was how we did the drive.

From San Francisco, the most direct approach would be to head north on the Golden Gate Bridge (US101) for about 9 miles or so to the exit 450B for Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Then, we’d follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd for about 4 miles to Pacheco Ave on the left.

Pacheco Ave then quickly intersected with Broadway Blvd / Center Blvd.

Cascade_Falls_004_04192019 - Limited places to park on Cascade Drive, which would likely increase the hiking distance due to having to park further back along the road
Limited places to park on Cascade Drive, which would likely increase the hiking distance due to having to park further back along the road

Turning right onto Broadway Blvd, we’d follow this street to the three-way stop at Bolinas Rd in 500ft, then turn left onto Bolinas Rd.

Note that if we happened to miss Pacheco Ave, then we can also take the next left turn at Claus Dr, where we’d then turn left onto Broadway Blvd, and then shortly afterwards turn right onto Bolinas Rd.

We’d then follow Bolinas Rd for about 0.4 miles to Cascade Drive on the right.

Then, we’d turn right onto Cascade Drive and follow this road to its end in about 1.5 miles.

Cascade_Falls_005_04192019 - The gate at the end of Cascade Drive, which then enters the Elliott Nature Preserve
The gate at the end of Cascade Drive, which then enters the Elliott Nature Preserve

The Elliott Nature Reserve began at the end of the road.

However, we’d have to find street parking along the shoulder as signs there prevented parking on the pavement.

There were other signs preventing parking on one side of the street.

Furthermore, we had to be mindful not to block anyone’s driveway.

Cascade_Falls_001_04192019 - Street parking off the pavement along Cascade Drive
Street parking off the pavement along Cascade Drive

The effect of all these restrictions was that we had to find a pullout further down the road, which increased our hiking distance a bit.

Overall, this 22-mile drive would take roughly an hour depending on traffic conditions.

For geographical context, San Francisco is 37 miles (over an hour drive) south of Olema, 11 miles (over 30 minutes drive) west of Oakland, 55 miles (over an hour drive) north of San Jose, 52 miles (about 90 minutes drive) south of Napa, 96 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of Sacramento, and 382 miles (6 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Find A Place To Stay



Booking.com

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg

Starting from the top of Cascade Falls then trying to show every possible angle from the trail


Fixated on the upper section of the falls

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Booking.com

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


Tagged with: tamalpais, marin, fairfax, san francisco, bay area, central coast, california, waterfall, elliott nature reserve, high water trail



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.