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Mt Tam Exploration: Cataract, High Marsh, Kent Trails & more (~9 mi, Moderate +)

  • Jun 30, 2014 · 10:00 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

 This hike is approximately 9 miles in length and ~ 1700' elevation gain.  But....I have only done this hike once on a very cloudy, rainy day and may not recognize all the trail junctions, so I'm calling it an "Exploration" hike.  This means I reserve the right to have misjudged the planned distance and/or elevation gain and to make wrong turns, resulting in a hike that is longer/shorter/harder/easier than described.  If this doesn't sound like fun to you, wait to see if it makes it back on the calendar as a known hike. 

This hike should have it all: waterfalls, wildflowers, and wowing views.   We'll start at the Pantoll Ranger Station and head up Easy Grade to the Mountain Theater and over to Rock Springs trailhead.  We'll cross over to the Cataract Trail and head north through a forest thick with Douglas fir, oak, and mossy boulders. That path parallels Cataract Creek the entire time, passing the quiet Laurel Dell picnic area. Soon after, the swift-moving creek turns to a rushing, roaring spectacle: Cataract Falls is one of the best waterfall displays in the Bay Area, and it should still be flowing. The journey veers onto the lightly used High Marsh Trail. We'll traverse the exposed and steep Bare Knoll, with broad views of the rolling Marin hills. Poppies, lupine, and blue dicks will add dashes of décor to the landscape. We'll dip back into an evergreen forest and wind up and down for a few miles, keeping an eye out for Douglas iris wildflowers. A right onto the Kent Trail will lead us to peaceful Portrero Meadows, where we'll take our lunch break well past half way through the hike. After lunch we'll take the Benstein Trail back through Rock Springs Trailhead and we'll finish our journey on Old Mine Trail with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Bay. 

Directions to the Pantoll Ranger Station:

From Hwy 101 take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Hwy 1 exit and continue straight for one mile to a stoplight at Shoreline Hwy (Hwy 1), Turn left on Shoreline and drive 2.5 miles, then turn right on Panoramic Hwy.   Drive 9/10ths of a mile until you reach an intersection where you can go left, straight or right.  Take the middle road continuing on Panoramic Hwy for 4.3 miles more to the Pantoll Ranger Station on your left.

There is an $8 per car charge for parking in the main parking lot, although there is a free lot across the road.  Consider paying the fee to help support our state parks that are threatened by drastic budget cuts.


Car pool etiquette- Come prepared to drive, be aware that there may be no others wanting to car pool from your selected location or there might be a lot of people and everyone might want to ride. We do our best to work it out and make everyone happy but we need everyone to pitch in and help make it work!

Then PLEASE if possible try to use the two locations below. The more locations we have the less effective we are and it's so much more complicated. Exceptions would be if you are not close to either location.

Car pool locations:

SANTA ROSA - Coddingtown Library parking lot suggested leave at 8:30.

http://goo.gl/maps/dBMKd

PETALUMA -Lucky at the intersection of Lakeville and Caulfield Ln. Park closest to Payran St. suggested leave by 8:55.

http://goo.gl/maps/xA0qm

General room of thumb...$5 one hour or less to trail head, $8 over one hour to trail head.  Please insist your driver accept the money. It's to cover more than gas money...it's the wear and tear on the vehicle. We like to take care of our drivers!

As always:

We combine enjoyment of the trail with respect for everyone’s time.   A steady pace (averaging 2.5-3 mph) and we just keep going!  Please note that if you are a faster hiker you will end up waiting.  If you are slower, you will find that as soon as you are in close visual sight we continue on.  This is how we respect everyone's time.  Also we do ask that if you are having a hard time keeping up with the group that you focus your efforts on keeping pace and doing the best you can do.

Please always check your email the night before just in case there are any necessary adjustments.  This is especially important if there are any weather issues.  Cancellations due to weather will be posted by 10pm the previous evening.

Give yourself time to find the trail head so that you arrive prior to the scheduled time.  That is the time we head out on the trail.  It would be disappointing to miss having you on the hike due to late arrival.

Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good rugged soles that are well broken in.

Duration: 3-4 hours

Facilities: at the trail head.

Bring plenty of water.  More than one bottle is usually a good idea.

No dogs allowed

Bring lunch - note that our break will be well past half way; plan accordingly

Dress in layers. 

Bring your smile and great attitude!

See you on the trail!

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  • Charles H.

    Warmish weather plus beautiful Tamalpias plus good friends equals one great adventure. Thanx Kathy.

    July 1, 2014

  • Katherine C.

    Thanks Kathy, very nice hike! AND fun converstions

    June 30, 2014

  • bob d.

    Great hike, thanks Kathy....

    June 30, 2014

  • Brigitte D.

    What a fabulous hike, albeit hot and sweaty!!! Thank you Kathy for leading us expertly through this labyrinth (to me anyway) of trails...I am not sure if I would have enjoyed myself as much during a rainstorm, fog, hail, etc., but I am hooked!

    June 30, 2014

  • Colleen

    Hot and sweaty! Wonderful conversations! And a marvelous hike, too!

    June 30, 2014

  • Yannick

    Thank you Kathy!

    Here is a link to my GPS data:
    http://www.mapmyhike.com/workout/628298851

    June 30, 2014

    • Kathy S

      Thx, Yannick! You're too cool...

      June 30, 2014

  • Julie W.

    I really like this hike! A bit hot today but still a good time! Thanks, Kathy! (especially for ordering up the cool breeze at the end!).

    June 30, 2014

  • Kathy S

    I had a great time today, but call crazy or call me "a goofball," but I preferred hiking this in the rain, fog, wind and hale last spring, rather than the heat and often times dry air of today. Go figure :0

    June 30, 2014

  • Judi C.

    Hi! If anyone is going who lives in Marin and would like to meet me in front of Safeway in Strawberry to carpool, please e-mail me tonight at [masked]. Or call before 10:30,[masked]

    June 29, 2014

  • Carol H.

    Coddingtown carpool. Anyone élysées plan to be there?

    June 16, 2014

  • Karen S.

    Just read the notification that I am confirmed for the hike on Mon. While on the waiting list I made other plans so I can't join the group. Have a great day.

    June 29, 2014

  • Linda M.

    petaluma carpool

    June 18, 2014

  • John H.

    Going to cancel and do something shorter to rehab the sore tendons. Really wanted to do this hike,

    June 29, 2014

  • Carol H.

    Gramma duties Monday, so I have to cancel. Hope someone on the wait list enjoys this hike as much as I would have!

    June 28, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thank you for the beautiful pics, Karen

    June 27, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      This comment was meant for Fridays hike at Pt Reyes with Kathy. Sorry...

      June 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Have a moving van apptmt. Hate to miss this

    June 27, 2014

  • Georgene

    Sorry, have to take an unexpected trip to LA and will be gone on Monday. Glad many are waiting to take my place. Have a great hike.

    June 24, 2014

  • George F.

    There is potable water at Mountain Theater, but nowhere else on this route. The junctions all are well marked, but there is a stretch of fire road in the midst of Ben Stein; otherwise, finding the way should be easy. Also, interesting use of dead trees by acorn woodpeckers. Unfortunately, I won't be able to join you.

    June 24, 2014

  • Chuck J.

    this'll be a fantastic hike on some of my favorite trails, wish that I didn't have to work then!!

    June 24, 2014

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