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Monday, May 20, 2013

The not-so-secret waterfalls of Mill Valley

Just minutes north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge you can find some very special Marin waterfalls. I say special because they're beautiful and surprisingly easy to get to once you know where to find them.

They're called the Cascade Falls and my friend Jason Mitchell told my friend Carl and I about them back in January of 2011 when we mentioned we were heading to Mill Valley to visit Tyler Florence's West Coast Kitchen store. Carl and I didn't take the time to find them that day because we were headed to SF to look for food trucks.

Over a year later I thought they would fun to visit as hubby and I were taking our nephew Josh to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and didn't feel like going into the city before or after.

Here's how we got there. From HWY 101:
  1. Take the Mill Valley Stinson Beach 1 Exit
  2. Bear left on HWY 1 and go back under the freeway
  3. Turn right on Almonte Blvd
  4. Almonte becomes Miller - Stay on Miller
  5. Turn left at Throckmorton Ave
  6. Throckmorton becomes Cascade Drive - The trail head is on Cascade Drive
Note it will take you longer to drive from the freeway to the falls parking lot where you'll see this sign than it will to hike to the falls once you've parked. It's important to note because I decided not to carry my tripod in because I thought the hike would be long. It was less than five minutes.

From the lot you'll see Cascade Creek, ferns, redwoods and a foot path to the left of the creek.

Follow the foot path until you reach this bridge.

Cross the bridge.

You'll be able to see the falls to your left even before crossing the bridge.


It's definitely a place of peace and serenity. The green ferns, pebbles through the water, mossy rocks, falling water, and the shade from the towering redwoods all combined to create a place of tranquility.

You'll find roughly hewn benches near the falls so you can sit and enjoy the solitude if no one else is around.

The reason I brought my tripod that day was to take long exposure shots of the falling water if we were successful in locating the falls. Instead, I had to hold/lean/press my camera on rocks and trees to brace it since I was feeling too lazy to walk the short distance back to the car to retrieve it.

For the most dramatic view of the falls visit in the winter after it rains when the creek is running full. As the spring and summer wear on the water level will drop and the falls will become less dramatic but, imo, no less beautiful. I loved that you could see through the semi-sheer veils of water as they dropped from the rocks above.

Of course I can't go anywhere without breaking out my macro lens. This lichen was begging to be photographed.

This branch too.

I simply love being in redwood forests and wish I'd begun visiting them decades ago when I first moved to California instead of waiting until last year.

And of course there's a restaurant recommendation. As we drove down Miller Avenue as we were heading towards the falls we passed Grilly's. It's a Mexican restaurant that serves both meat and vegetarian dishes and I have to say they make some awesome nachos. Instead of adding a meat to them I asked if I could have both refried and black beans. I will do this at any restaurant that will let me from now on because it was better than one or the other.

I wish they were closer because their nachos were awesome and they use my favorite fire roasted salsa on the nachos instead of the chopped fresh tomato variety. I will definitely be returning for an encore.

Here are a few more articles about Cascade Falls and the nearby Three Wells:

Cole's Trail Tales: Marin Waterfalls Hike - Cascade Falls in Mill Valley
Towards an Enlightened World: Cascade Falls, Mill Valley, California
Marin Independent Journal: Hike of the week: Now's the time to catch Marin's waterfalls

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