Saturday, March 26, 2011

Marin Waterfalls Hike - Cascade Falls in Mill Valley - 3/26/11

Cascade Falls in Mill Valley

          Cascade Falls is another display of Marin’s natural beauty. It is located deep within Cascade Canyon in Mill Valley. The falls and surrounding area including the Three Wells and Cascade Dam hold a special place in my heart for I grew up just blocks away and spent a lot of my childhood exploring the terrain at great depths. I hold fond memories of swimming at all three locations on hot summer days. Even sometimes on colder days a dip could be refreshing after a long hike. I used to jump in just to rinse off all the poison oak I tromped through. Although Cascade Falls flows year round it is best seen after a heavy rain. I timed my visit just right as the previous weeks rain had the falls flowing pretty good.
          To get there take Cascade Dr. in Mill Valley just past the last intersection with Throckmorton Ave. to a small dirt parking lot with a wooden sign saying: Cascade Falls.
          The parking lot was nearly full which told me it might be crowded at the falls so I opted to first check out The Three wells which are located a short ways down a trail in the opposite direction. I crossed the street from the dirt lot and onto a path that leads along Cascade Creek heading back in the direction I drove in. The trail crosses a couple of wooden bridges before coming to The Three Wells. The creek was full enough that the Three Wells weren’t wells at all, but one strong torrent cascading into the pool below. The area known as Three Wells actually used to be and old rock quarry and although overgrown with moss ferns and ivy, signs of an unnatural hillside and pool can still be detected. In summer months the Three Wells is a popular spot with locals to cool off and can sometimes get quite crowded.

The Three Wells

          The trail continues past the Three Wells along the creek for a short distance before rejoining Cascade Drive. I meandered down and back admiring the fern framed creek at my side.

Fern Framed Cascade Creek

          I continued back to the parking lot and started off toward the falls. Again, the path follows the creek with a pretty inlet stream entering not far from the lot.

Mossy Rock Near Inlet Stream

          The trail soon splits with the left fork ascending toward the top of the falls and beyond that to Lovell Ave. I proceeded on the right fork which crosses a footbridge and brings you to the base of Cascade Falls. My plan of visiting the Three Wells first ended up paying off as I now had the place to myself.

Cascade Falls

          It was a cloudy evening and it was definitely starting to get dark in the canyon so I continued on along a use trail that climbs the right side of the falls. There are a couple more “wells” above the falls but again, the heavy runoff had filled them in completely with white water. A spur trail leads to the creek for views of the cascades and pools above the fals.

Cascading Cascade Creek

The trail continues upstream a short ways before crossing another footbridge that I’ve always known as “the love bridge”. Once across the stream the trail leads up to intersect with the trail leading to Lovell Ave. Where the two trails intersect is a great place to see Fetid Adder’s Tongue, however, being late March there were no flowers left in bloom. There were an abundance of Milk Maids and several Trilliums still in bloom. I climbed down on a perch above the falls and relaxed for a while before heading back to the car. It feels good to revisit places of the past!


  1. wow, lovely. I went to the falls with a friend eons ago and have been trying to find it ever since. Thank you. Can't wait.... pat in Sacramento

  2. Thanks Pat,
    It was a terrific area to grow up in and a great backyard with which to explore!

  3. I am taking my boys there today. A good friend of mine was raving about the falls yesterday, and said the timing would be right to go. You are the only person who has proper directions and trail descriptions to the falls - thank you! Btw, this place is invisible to Google - I hope I find it:
    Richard - San Francisco

  4. Thanks, Cole. I'm going to make it a place to visit in the future! (Never heard of it until I just saw a flickr picture of it.)