This is getting to be one of my favorite places to hike. The Marin Water District watershed is beautiful. I was looking on the map for a new route, and I saw a little blue circle that said "Hidden Lake." Well, what can be more tempting than hiking to a hidden lake? I planned my route, and got a later start than I hoped, but it turned out to be a perfect day for this.
There are a couple of important things to mention about this hike. First, there is a lot of climbing. According to my Garmin 305 GPS watch, the elevation ascent was 8901 feet, descent was 8982 feet. That seems crazy, but my pounding heart and my glutes told me it was about right. Second, there were a couple of spots on the High Marsh Trail that had unmarked trails connected to the main route. I didn't follow those, and I suggest you stay on the High Marsh Trail.
Mileage: 7.12 miles
Ascent: 8901 feet
Descent: 8982 feet
Photo Map (All the images on a map. Click the icon in the top right of the map and select "aerial" to see the pictures on a satellite image.)
Trailhead: Take Bolinas Road in Fairfax to Mile Marker 8.13. It's just past the narrow bridge you'll drive over. Park on the side of the road. Cataract Trail starts here.
There is tremendous diversity on this hike. You'll encounter Redwoods, Bay Trees, Oaks, Manzanitas, Madrones and many streams and water falls.
You'll want to bring a lot of water on this hike. I would suggest a camelbak type water dispenser. You'll be surprised how thirsty climbing can make you. Also, if you have one, bring a walking stick or hiking pole. There are rocks and roots all along the way, as well as steep descents and ascents. Stairs can take their toll on your quads, so by the end of the hike, as you're descending down Cataract Trail, the walking stick will come in handy.
On a hike like this, it's important to eat and hydrate about every 1.5 miles. On a rigorous hike, this will keep your energy level consistent and minimize any "crash" when you really need strength.
Roots on the trail
Lots of stairs to climbOK, on to the hike!
Start out on Cataract Trail
You'll only be on Cataract Trail for a short bit on this part of the hike. The last stage of this loop hike will get you back here as well. Cataract Trail has some nice waterfalls and streams, along with lush vegetation.
The stairs on this route will help you build your quads and glutes.
Enjoy the beauty of the streams here.
Left on to Helen Markt Trail (About .6 miles in to the hike)
This part of the hike is pleasant and not too demanding. You'll pass through sections of Redwood and Madrone, along with some groves of Manzanita.
Nice clusters of Redwoods
Bridge crossing over a stream.
Some twisted and colorful ManzanitaYou'll come to the intersection of Helen Markt Trail and Kent Trail. This is a nice place for a refueling break, so enjoy your rest, lot's of climbing ahead of you.
Right on to Kent Trail (2.3 miles in to the hike)
Kent Trail goes along the shore of Alpine Lake if you go straight, but take a right to continue on to Hidden Lake.
Sections of Kent Trail are thick with bushes, and you'll be ducking as you go through some dense canopies.There are some beautiful and majestic scenes along this trail.
Ready for Hidden Lake? You're almost there. You'll soon come to a trail marker for the Stocking Trail. Hidden Lake is a short walk up the Stocking Trail.
Left on to Stocking Trail (Just a short hike to Hidden Lake)
And, drum roll please, here is Hidden Lake:
Residents of Hidden Lake swim away as I approach...Hidden Lake is a small and mysterious little pool of water. I expected to see a few eyes surface to check me out, so I hung around here for a few minutes, waiting for something to happen. Other than the drone of an airplane flying over, the place was quiet and tranquil.
When you've had your fill of Hidden Lake, return to the Stocking/Kent Trail marker. Now, the hike continues on Kent Trail. At the trail marker, follow Kent trail. (Continue on, don't go back to Helen Markt Trail).
Return back to this trail marker and continue on the Kent Trail
Continue on Kent Trail.
Scenes from Kent Trail:
Rocks and stairs on this part of your journey.Climbing on Kent Trail...Some beautiful Manzanita groves on Kent TrailEventually the trail opens up, and after the ascent on Kent Trail, you'll be on a ridge line. You'll come to a sign that says "Kent Trail to Potrero Mdws."
At this sign, follow the trail that says "Kent Trail to Potrero Meadow." You're not going to Potrero Meadow, but take this trail.
I crossed this bridge on Kent Trail.
Bridge on Kent Trail
Follow Kent Trail until you come to this point (About 3.65 miles in to the hike) and take a Right on to High Marsh Trail.
Go past Cross Country Trail, and continue on High Marsh Trail
The trail goes right through this family of Madrones.
The next section is a little tricky because there are a few side trails that are not on the map and may be confusing. Don't take them. Follow the signs for High Marsh Trail and stay on it. At the sign below, there is a trail that goes to the right, but you stay straight on High Marsh Trail.
Dry stream bed on the High Marsh Trail. I'm sure this is beautiful when the water is flowing.
You'll pass these two giant boulders (hidden in the background) in one of the most interesting and ghostly sections of this hike.
The light was beautiful as it streamed through the trees to illuminate the rocky trail.
When you see this trail marker, continue on High Marsh Trail. Don't follow the trail behind this marker.
You'll go through groves of Manzanita, and you'll feel them reaching out to you with their twisted, gnarly branches.
At 4.79 miles, you'll come to the intersection of High Marsh Trail and Old Stove Trail. Stay on High Marsh Trail.
Stay on High Marsh Trail
This little tree had a nice, Dr. Suess quality to it.
Keeping on High Marsh Trail, at about 5.08 miles, you'll come to this tempting intersection. You can take the shortcut to Laurel Dell, and pick up Cataract Trail there, which will take you back to your car. OR, you can be a hiker and keep on this pretty section of High Marsh Trail.
Really pretty section of trail here.
You'll get to an open hillside and see the following sign. Stay on High Marsh Trail to Cataract Trail.
The trail gets a little precarious, so maintain solid footing and pay attention.
At about 5.38 miles, there is a bench. Rest here, enjoy the sounds of the forest and the water. Then, follow the sign to Cataract Trail.
Nice streams on this section of the hike.
Redwood and Bay Trees posing for me.
Finally, take a right at this sign to take you back to your start:
I like the Bay Tree next to this bridge. You'll cross this on the Cataract Trail on your way back to your vehicle.
This is a challenging but very rewarding hike. Plan ahead, bring your map, food, water and positive attitude. Rest when tired so you can enjoy the hike. Don't push yourself for time, just take it all in. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Bay Area.
I finally had a chance to test the video capabilities of my new camera. Here are some scenes of streams and waterfalls on this hike: