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

Find Nearby Accommodation


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

Cascade_Falls_014_04092010 - Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls

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.

The Main Trail along San Anselmo Creek

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.

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

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

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).

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_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

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 before eventually descending and merging 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 trail given how easily eroded the High Water Trail can be as it clings to the hills and embankments above San Anselmo Creek.

The Rest of the Way to Cascade Falls

As both the High Water Trail and the main trail merge beyond the second crossing of San Anselmo Creek, the trail then continues to follow along the creek as it makes a final climb and descent.

Cascade_Falls_018_04192019 - Looking back at the last crossing of San Anselmo Creek had I taken the main trail.  The High Water Trail and main trail join up here
Looking back at the last crossing of San Anselmo Creek had I taken the main trail. The High Water Trail and main trail join up here

At the bottom of this hill, the trail then crossed Cascade Creek over a footbridge as the trail reached another junction beyond the footbridge.

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
Cascade Falls

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.

After briefly hiking the San Anselmo Creek Trail, the trail then forked, 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, which indicated to me that the Plunge Pool as 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).


Cascade Falls resides in the Cascade Canyon Preserve and the trail runs through the Elliott Nature Preserve. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Cascade_Falls_001_04092010 - The end of Cascade Drive
Cascade_Falls_008_04192019 - Fork in the trail where going left would cross San Anselmo Creek and follow on what I called the 'main trail' while going right would take us on the High Water Trail.  Both trails eventually merge about half-way through the hike
Cascade_Falls_003_04092010 - Along the High Water Trail
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
Cascade_Falls_004_04092010 - Julie traversing a minor creek crossing, which I believe took us off the High Water Trail and onto the main trail
Cascade_Falls_025_04092010 - The narrowest part of the High Water Trail
Cascade_Falls_024_04092010 - Wild turkey
Cascade_Falls_088_04192019 - The main trail traversed this open clearing in between crossings of San Anselmo Creek
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
Cascade_Falls_024_04192019 - Some wildflowers blooming besides the Cascade Falls Trail
Cascade_Falls_021_04092010 - Turn right after this brdge over Cascade Creek
Cascade_Falls_031_04192019 - Walking besides Cascade Creek after crossing the bridge and leaving the San Anselmo Trail
Cascade_Falls_014_04092010 - Cascade Falls and a railing nearby seen in April 2010
Cascade_Falls_050_04192019 - 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
Cascade_Falls_077_04192019 - On the return hike after having had my fill of Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_092_04192019 - During the return hike, I decided not to take the High Water Trail. Instead, I followed the main trail, which took me through this wooded Public Trail
Cascade_Falls_103_04192019 - Back at the fence at the end of Cascade Drive
Cascade_Falls_104_04192019 - Walking back to the parked car along Cascade Drive


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

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

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

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

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

Follow Bolinas Rd for about 0.4 miles to Cascade Drive on the right.

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

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

However, you’ll have to find street parking along the shoulder as signs there prevent parking on the pavement.

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

Furthermore, you’ll want 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 is that you’ll probably have to find a pullout further down the road, which will increase your hiking distance a bit.

It was certainly the case during our first visit.

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.

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

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