Dawn Falls

Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve / Larkspur, California, USA

About Dawn Falls


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip or 2.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour or 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-05-22
Date last visited: 2019-04-19

Waterfall Latitude: 37.93849
Waterfall Longitude: -122.56241

Dawn Falls was kind of an unusual waterfalling experience for us in that it was nestled in a part of Marin County where there were numerous high-priced residences built amongst towering coastal redwood trees.

It seemed like an unlikely place for a pleasant Nature outing (let alone a waterfalling excursion) given the developments, but it just goes to show you how Nature can yield pleasant surprises.

Dawn_Falls_072_04192019 - Dawn Falls
Dawn Falls

I actually visited this 30ft waterfall twice – a first time when it was not flowing in May 2016, and a second time when it was flowing in April 2019.

Each time I’ve done this excursion, I took a different trail.

The first trail involved hiking through Baltimore Canyon before climbing up to the Dawn Falls.

The second trail started from a trailhead above Baltimore Canyon before descending to Dawn Falls.

Summarizing the different approaches to Dawn Falls

Dawn_Falls_064_05222016 - Mom towered over by coastal redwood trees in Baltimore Canyon on our first time hiking to Dawn Falls
Mom towered over by coastal redwood trees in Baltimore Canyon on our first time hiking to Dawn Falls

The Baltimore Canyon route pretty much meandered amongst the towering coastal redwood trees, which were plentiful within this canyon.

This trail meandered for 1.25 miles to reach the Dawn Falls (2.5 miles round trip).

It took my Mom and I a little under 90 minutes to complete, but we really took our time as we basked in the peace and quiet of the canyon floor.

Most of the hike was flat except for the final climb up leading up to the foot of the waterfall in the last quarter-mile or so.

Dawn_Falls_022_04192019 - Looking into Baltimore Canyon from the Crown Road Fire Road
Looking into Baltimore Canyon from the Crown Road Fire Road

Of the two hikes to reach Dawn Falls, I’d argue that this was the more atmospheric of the two even though the hike was longer.

On the other hand, the other trail started from a different trailhead above Baltimore Canyon.

This approach involved briefly hiking along the rim of Baltimore Canyon on the Crown Road Fire Road.

It eventually reached a trail junction with the Dawn Falls Trail, where it then descended to Dawn Falls barely a half-mile from the trailhead.

Dawn_Falls_084_04192019 - Looking into the coastal redwood trees of Baltimore Canyon as the morning sun was rising
Looking into the coastal redwood trees of Baltimore Canyon as the morning sun was rising

Continuing downhill beyond Dawn Falls, would have reached the head of Baltimore Canyon and its groves of redwood trees.

Dawn Falls Trail Description – hiking to the falls via the Baltimore Canyon Route

From the trailhead at the end of Madrone Ave, we followed the steps that left the pavement and descended towards Larkspur Creek.

Almost immediately, we were surrounded by coastal redwoods.

Upon crossing the bridge, when we saw there was water in Larkspur Creek, that gave us hope that Dawn Falls ought to be flowing.

Dawn_Falls_017_05222016 - Following the wide and gently uphill trail through Baltimore Canyon flanked by tall coastal redwood trees
Following the wide and gently uphill trail through Baltimore Canyon flanked by tall coastal redwood trees

On the other side of the bridge traversing the creek, we then turned right and followed the now-signposted Dawn Falls Trail further upstream deeper into Baltimore Canyon.

Throughout the hike, we were flanked by the majestic coastal redwood trees.

Indeed, it became readily apparent that many of the Bay Area’s place names like Redwood City further to the south were inspired by such trees.

Anyways, we shared the relatively flat trail going slightly uphill with a handful of local joggers who probably use this trail for their morning run.

Dawn_Falls_038_05222016 - Mom keeping left to remain in Baltimore Canyon and not take the Ladybug Trail on the right
Mom keeping left to remain in Baltimore Canyon and not take the Ladybug Trail on the right

Roughly a half-mile from the trailhead, we encountered a trail junction with the Ladybug Trail.

We kept left to remain on the Dawn Falls Trail, and a few minutes afterwards, we noticed a few feeder creeks coming from our left that would cross the trail and feed Larkspur Creek.

Unfortunately, the further up Baltimore Canyon we went (beyond these feeder creeks), Larkspur Creek grew more and more quiet.

Eventually by the time we reached the head of Baltimore Canyon (and an even denser grove of coastal redwood trees), it was almost as if Larkspur Creek went completely dry during our mid-May 2016 visit.

Dawn_Falls_061_05222016 - Mom hiking between a succession of coastal redwood trees within Baltimore Canyon on the longer and atmospheric approach to Dawn Falls
Mom hiking between a succession of coastal redwood trees within Baltimore Canyon on the longer and atmospheric approach to Dawn Falls

Anyways, this was confirmed as we climbed steeply up the continuation of the trail as it left the floor of Baltimore Canyon.

Then, the trail followed the canyon’s sloping contours towards the top of Dawn Falls, where it was indeed merely trickling.

It was from this point that we realized that we probably could have gone another half-mile further up the canyon to the other trailhead (for the shorter way of doing this hike).

After having our fill of the Dawn Falls, we went back down the hill and then back the way we came.

Dawn_Falls_083_05222016 - Looking back at the narrow and ascending trail rising up out of Baltimore Canyon and heading towards Dawn Falls
Looking back at the narrow and ascending trail rising up out of Baltimore Canyon and heading towards Dawn Falls

Along the way, we got to soak in the experience of Baltimore Canyon and its redwood forest once again.

Dawn Falls Trail Description – hiking to the falls via the Crown Road Fire Road

Like with the first trailhead at the end of Madrone Ave, the end of Crown Road was also flanked by homes with limited parking space for non-residents.

In this particular instance, Crown Road appeared to allow for parallel street parking on one side (the side closer to the downhill slope).

Then, the trail resumed behind the gate blocking vehicular access onto the Crown Road Fire Road.

Dawn_Falls_013_04192019 - Following the Crown Road Fire Road skirting the head of Baltimore Canyon
Following the Crown Road Fire Road skirting the head of Baltimore Canyon

Beyond the gate, the trail veered right then followed the contour of the hillside providing panoramic views (against the morning sun) towards Baltimore Canyon as well as some of the homes perched above it.

I also noticed some attractive wildflowers in bloom along this panoramic stretch of trail.

Eventually after about a quarter-mile or so, the trail reached a junction with the Dawn Falls Trail.

I proceeded to go left down the narrow and steep trail as it descended a series of steps and switchbacks.

Dawn_Falls_036_04192019 - Some purple wildflowers blooming alongside the Crown Road Fire Road
Some purple wildflowers blooming alongside the Crown Road Fire Road

After another quarter-mile of this descent, I finally reached the brink and some angled frontal views of the Dawn Falls.

It didn’t appear possible to safely scramble down from the trail to the front of Dawn Falls for an even more satisfying experience.

Therefore, I explored further down Baltimore Canyon to the redwood trees at the bottom of the descent.

Then, when I saw that it was undesirable to do the stream scramble upstream all the way to Dawn Falls due to the amount of deadfall, I decided against pushing through that.

Dawn_Falls_048_04192019 - Descending the narrow Dawn Falls Trail from the Crown Road Fire Road approach
Descending the narrow Dawn Falls Trail from the Crown Road Fire Road approach

So all in all, this Crown Road approach went for about a mile round trip, and it took me around an hour.

Authorities

Dawn Falls resides in the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve near Larkspur in 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.

Dawn_Falls_010_04192019 - Limited street parking near the gate at the end of Crown Road, which was the approach I took to Dawn Falls during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_020_04192019 - The open space of the west approach to Baltimore Canyon along Crown Road as seen during my April 2019 hike to Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_024_04192019 - Closer look at some of the wildflowers blooming alongside the Crown Road Fire Road during my pursuit of Dawn Falls in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_027_04192019 - Checking out some purple wildflowers blooming alongside the Crown Road Fire Road as of my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_032_04192019 - Closeup of some of the wildflowers blooming alongside Crown Road Fire Road on the upper approach to Baltimore Canyon during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_040_04192019 - The Crown Road Fire Road continuing to bend to the left as it was getting closer to the Dawn Falls Trail junction during my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_041_04192019 - Looking back at a pair of hikers getting an early morning walk on the Crown Road during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_042_04192019 - Approaching the Dawn Falls Trail junction from the Crown Road during my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_043_04192019 - Descending the Dawn Falls Trail from Crown Road during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_045_04192019 - The Dawn Falls Trail was steep and narrow when I was coming down from the Crown Road during my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_047_04192019 - Descending one of many switchbacks as I was headed down to Dawn Falls from the Crown Road during my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_049_04192019 - Another look at the narrow trail starting to get close to the Dawn Falls on the descent from Crown Road during my April 2019 hike
Dawn_Falls_050_04192019 - Looking over the brink of Dawn Falls during my April 2019 hike. This time there was actually water in the creek
Dawn_Falls_057_04192019 - Broad look at Dawn Falls during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_059_04192019 - Profile view of Dawn Falls as seen in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_067_04192019 - This was the most direct view of Dawn Falls that I was able to get from the trail during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_076_04192019 - Broad contextual look at the Dawn Falls during my April 2019 visit
Dawn_Falls_081_04192019 - After checking out the Dawn Falls during my April 2019 visit, I thought I might keep descending into Baltimore Canyon to see if it would be reasonable to scramble upstream to the base of the waterfall
Dawn_Falls_086_04192019 - Looking ahead at the deadfall that I would have to scramble through if I was to try to stream scramble my way up to the Dawn Falls during my April 2019 visit.  I decided against doing that
Dawn_Falls_092_04192019 - Climbing back up towards the Crown Road after having ahd my fill of the Dawn Falls in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_093_04192019 - Continuing with the steep uphill hike to regain the Crown Road Fire Road after having had my fill of Dawn Falls in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_096_04192019 - I couldn't help but notice water coming out of this pipe. I wasn't sure if it was suburban runoff or just a means to let water beneath the trail, but it certainly seemed like a source of the Dawn Falls as seen in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_099_04192019 - Closeup look at a purple wildflower as I was hiking back to the Crown Road to end my Dawn Falls hike in April 2019
Dawn_Falls_104_04192019 - Looking towards some homes perched atop Baltimore Canyon as seen from Crown Road during my April 2019 hike from Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_109_04192019 - Some homes actually bordered the Crown Road, which I noticed as I was returning to the Crown Road's end to end my April 2019 hike to Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_005_05222016 - Mom getting started on the Dawn Falls hike from the lower end of Baltimore Canyon during our May 2016 visit. The rest of the photos in this gallery came from that visit
Dawn_Falls_006_05222016 - Descending into Baltimore Canyon from the end of Madrone Ave during our May 2016 pursuit of Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_008_05222016 - Walking amongst the giant coastal redwood trees in Baltimore Canyon during our May 2016 pursuit of Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_010_05222016 - Approaching the bridge over Larkspur Creek during our Baltimore Canyon approach to Dawn Falls on our May 2016 hike
Dawn_Falls_011_05222016 - As you can see from this photo in May 2016, there was actually water in Larkspur Creek, which gave us hope that Dawn Falls ought to be flowing
Dawn_Falls_014_05222016 - Following the signposts en route to Dawn Falls alongside Baltimore Canyon during our hike in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_015_05222016 - Context of Mom hiking along the Baltimore Canyon Trail to Dawn Falls in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_021_05222016 - Following along the wide and gently uphill trail through Baltimore Canyon in pursuit of Dawn Falls during our May 2016 visit
Dawn_Falls_026_05222016 - We shared the Baltimore Canyon Trail with quite a few local joggers and trail runners out for their early morning weekend exercise in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_030_05222016 - This was one of the narrower sections of the Baltimore Canyon Trail en route to Dawn Falls during our May 2016 visit
Dawn_Falls_032_05222016 - The Dawn Falls Trail went from being flanked by groves of giant coastal redwood trees to little meadows like this one during our Baltimore Canyon approach in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_043_05222016 - Mom continuing on the narrow part of the Baltimore Canyon approach to Dawn Falls during our May 2016 hike
Dawn_Falls_045_05222016 - This was one of the few narrow sections of the Dawn Falls approach from within Baltimore Canyon as seen during our May 2016 visit
Dawn_Falls_049_05222016 - Mom passing beneath an interesting deadfall within Baltimore Canyon en route to Dawn Falls during our visit in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_055_05222016 - This was a particularly dense part of the forested Baltimore Canyon during our May 2016 pursuit of Dawn Falls
Dawn_Falls_065_05222016 - Near the head of Baltimore Canyon, we had to steeply climb up a pair of switchbacks in order to continue to get closer to Dawn Falls on our May 2016 visit
Dawn_Falls_070_05222016 - Mom ascending on a narrower trail hugging the contours of Baltimore Canyon in pursuit of Dawn Falls in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_071_05222016 - This was Dawn Falls looking pretty pathethic when we first came here in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_074_05222016 - Looking back at the narrow trail that we took to get up to Dawn Falls in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_077_05222016 - Upon closer inspection of Dawn Falls during our May 2016 visit, we could see that it was actually still trickling
Dawn_Falls_082_05222016 - Context of the trickling Dawn Falls during our May 2016 visit
Dawn_Falls_093_05222016 - Mom finally back down amongst the base of the giant coastal redwoods on the floor of Baltimore Canyon after our disappointing view of Dawn Falls in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_114_05222016 - Getting to experience Baltimore Canyon and the coastal redwood trees all over again as we returned the way we came during our Dawn Falls hike in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_119_05222016 - Back at the first bridge over Larkspur Creek near the end of our Dawn Falls hike in May 2016
Dawn_Falls_122_05222016 - Finally making it back to the end of Madrone Ave, where we could regain our car to end our Dawn Falls May 2016 visit

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The nearest town to Dawn Falls and the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve was Larkspur or the neighboring Corte Madera.

But I’ll just focus on how we’d do the drive from San Francisco.

Since we also did this drive from Napa Valley to the north, we’ll also follow up with this approach as well.

Then, we’ll describe how to get to either of the trailheads (i.e. the East Approach or West Approach).

Driving from San Francisco to the Baltimore Canyon Trail on the East Approach

From San Francisco, we headed north on the Golden Gate Bridge (US101) for about 7.5 miles to the Tamalpais Drive exit (exit 449).

Dawn_Falls_004_05222016 - This was the end of Madrone Ave, where the Dawn Falls Trail began. There was limited parking space behind the white lines to the left so an early start was a must
This was the end of Madrone Ave, where the Dawn Falls Trail began. There was limited parking space behind the white lines to the left so an early start was a must

Then, we drove west (left at the off-ramp) on Tamalpais Drive for about a mile (Tamalpais Dr becomes Redwood Ave en route) to Corte Madera Ave.

Next, we turned right on Corte Madera Ave and took it north for about a half-mile (Corte Madera Ave became Magnolia Ave en route) before turning left onto Madrone Ave.

We followed this tree-lined street into the residential area, and then followed Madrone Ave all the way to its end in just under a mile.

The Baltimore Canyon Trail began from the end of Madrone Ave.

Dawn_Falls_002_04192019 - The dead-end at the end of Madrone Ave where the trail into Baltimore Canyon began
The dead-end at the end of Madrone Ave where the trail into Baltimore Canyon began

There was very limited parking so I’d imagine an early start would be imperative.

From what I could tell, there maybe room for only about 6 spots or so, including some visitors and residents parked here overnight.

Driving from San Francisco to the end of Crown Road on the West Approach

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 2 miles to College Ave on the left.

Dawn_Falls_011_04192019 - The gate blocking further vehicular access on the Crown Road
The gate blocking further vehicular access on the Crown Road

Next, we’d follow College Ave for 0.4 miles before turning right onto Woodland Rd.

Once on Woodland Rd, we’d continue on it for 0.3 miles before turning left onto Evergreen Dr.

Following Evergreen Dr for about a mile, we’d then turn left onto Crown Rd.

Then follow Crown Rd to its end and look for street parking near its end.

Dawn_Falls_116_04192019 - Looking back at the parked cars along Crown Road for the West Approach of Baltimore Canyon
Looking back at the parked cars along Crown Road for the West Approach of Baltimore Canyon

If we’re coming from Napa Valley, then we’d take the Hwy 12 to Hwy 121, and then we’d follow the 37 to connect with the US101 south.

At that point, we’d continue south on US101 until we would get off the Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit for the West Approach or the Tamalpais Dr exit for the East Approach.

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.

Approaching Dawn Falls while sweeping back and forth showing every possible angle i could think of along the trail


Right to left sweep of the head of Baltimore Canyon where Dawn Falls was trickling in May 2016

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Tagged with: baltimore canyon, open space preserve, larkspur, marin county, bay area, northern california, waterfall, redwoods



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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.
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