Rock Springs-Hiking

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A mostly flat, beautiful hike, highlighting coastal views in Mt. Tam's Watershed. Dogs are welcome and the crowds are small.

Written by

Emily Staples


3.5 miles

Starting at the Rock Springs parking lot, taking Cataract Trail, there are a lot of options for longer routes. The shortest with the same beautiful views is Cataract connecting to Coastal Trail.

Destination Distance From Downtown

12.3 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The trail is moderately flat with one short, steep section. Elevation is just over a 1,000 feet. Overall it's a gentle trail-- no protruding tree roots or large rocks.

Time To Complete

1 hours

This is a quick, fun loop beginning on Cataract Trail to Coastal Trail. It's flat so you'll clip along at a good pace and will only stop to take in the stunning Pacific Ocean views. There are options to take longer routes, totaling about 7.5 miles instead of 3.5


Fall and Winter

The fog hides the stunning views in the summer, winter and spring. Fall is your best bet for perfect weather and clear views.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits




Mt. Tamalpais offers good fun for all, and Rock Springs is especially perfect for dog lovers hoping to take Fido along for a good hike. Coastal views, forests of Douglas Firs and gentle waterfalls are all highlights at Rock Springs. Cataract Trail to Coastal Trail is a perfect quick loop in Rock Springs offering jaw dropping views on moderately flat terrain.

What Makes It Great

Everything you need for a fun hike is packed in a powerful punch on Coastal Trail. The crowds are limited (except on Saturday/Sunday afternoons) the views are sweeping, and the local flora is spectacular. Rock Springs offers over 130 trails, but this special little loop-- Cataract to Coastal Trail nicely covers the terrain for those on a tight timeline. 

Coastal Trail is mostly in the sun and exposed to all weather elements--strong winds and fog, too. It's perfect on a warm early fall day. Cataract trail offers more shade-- it's mostly under a canopy of Redwoods and Douglas Firs. Together, the two offer a good combination of sun and shade, amazing views and unique native coastal plants. You'll be glad you wore layers for this hike.

Who is Going to Love It

Folks who need a quick dose of nature will enjoy this calm, beautiful loop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It is a gentle hike, great to share with out-of-town friends or family hoping to see the ocean and get a little exercise. Dogs are welcome on most all trails in the Watershed, however they are NOT welcome on Coastal Trail (if you want to bring your dog, stay on Cataract, hiking out and back on the same trail). 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To start your hike right, you'll want to park at the Rock Springs lot. From Highway 101, take the exit for Stinson Beach/ Hwy 1. Turn left on Shoreline Hwy, and follow signs to Mt. Tamalpais. Shoreline turns into Panoramic Highway. Stay on Panoramic Highway, looking for signs to the top of the mountain. At the Pantoll Campground, veer right on Ridgecrest Road. From Ridgecrest, you'll see the Rock Springs Parking Lot. If it's full (there is room for about 30 cars), there is overflow parking near the Mountain Theater, 100 yards further on Ridgecrest. A Port-A-Potty is available at the trailhead. 

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

1393 Panoramic Hwy
Mill Valley, CA, 94941
37.90641, -122.573993

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