One of the most fun things to do in San Francisco is to venture our into the great outdoors for the day. These Northern Californians are spoilt for choice with things to do around the Bay Area.
The locals in the Bay Area and all over California have been rejoicing since El Nino has been blessing them with daily rain storms, ending their 4 year drought. Not so much if you are visiting from London as you thought you had escaped all that grey weather. One of the best things about the rain beside the reservoirs filling up again is the reappearance of the waterfalls in Mount Tamalpais.
One of the best things about the rain beside the reservoirs filling up again is the reappearance of the waterfalls in Mount Tamalpais. Taking advantage of this, we decided to take a hike to look for these waterfalls.
Child-friendly hikes in Mount Tamalpais
Since we had a 7-year-old with us, we had to pick a hiking trail that was not too long nor too arduous that a kid can handle. This Cataract Trail hike was recommended as quite a good one for kids. It is a 2.6 mile loop which takes you along the Cataract Creek and passes some of the waterfalls. If you wanted a longer hike, the local maps show you alternative routes which take you further up the mountain.
The path is well marked and sign posted so you won’t get lost. Don’t bring a baby stroller as the muddy paths and steps will not be suitable.
This park is managed by the Marin Municipal Water District and is open from sunrise to sunset. At the head of the trail is a massive notice board with local maps and safety information. There were pictures of the wild life in the woods like mountain lion and bears and what to do if you see them. We didn’t even see a mouse on our hike.
We did see a lot of families with kids and people walking their dogs.
Hiking to the waterfalls at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County
We followed the map and the well worn route through the wooded areas. Walking under the giant Redwoods is wonderful. If only we had more places like this near London.
Californians are a really friendly lot. Every single person said hello as they walked past. Some even stopped for a chat. How bizarre.
It took us about an hour to get to the falls. We then spent ages clambering over rocks (highly unadvisable) to get to a good position under the falls. After taking another ton of pictures, we made our way back. In all the hike took about 3 hours but if you don’t stop like we did, you can do it in about 2. It’s a great way to spend a day out.
What to wear and what to bring with you.
This is just a bit more than a walk in the woods and not a heavy duty hiking trip so you don’t have to pack for an expedition.
Depending on the time of year, wear breathable layers with a waterproof layer on top. You can wear hiking boots but just normal trainers (or sneakers) will do. It can get muddy in parts , especially with the recent rain. Bring a light backpack, bottles of water, a picnic and wet wipes.
We took a break at these picnic tables in Laurel Dell. Seeing as we had to keep the 7 year old happy, we unpacked our hastily purchased goodies from Fallettis on our way out of town. It’s a peaceful and serene stopping place, well shaded by the glen of trees. Nearby is a very shallow stream where you can take the more adventurous kids for a little paddle. Be warned, there are some loos nearby but they are quite nasty.
How to get there
We took the Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco. Here is one of the millions of pics I took of the bridge.
Then we took Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach and exited in Mill Valley. Then followed Highway 1 west until a point where you bear right onto the Panoramic Highway (follow the signs to Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais). Follow Panoramic Highway north onto Mt. Tam. Turn right onto Pan Toll Road and then right on East Ridgecrest Boulevard at the Rock Spring parking area. Parking is free here.
The views along this road are spectacular but there is no place to stop for a photo op. We followed the Panoramic Highway north onto Mt. Tam. Then we turned right onto Pan Toll Road and then right on East Ridgecrest Boulevard. You end up at the Rock Spring car parking. It’s a big car park with free parking and there are porta loos ( or the American call porta potty) at one end.