Bay Area

Weekend Hikes: The Elusive Dawn Falls Trail in Larkspur

Thursday March 24, 2016

It took us two weekends and three attempts to finally find Dawn Falls Trail, hidden deep in the redwoods of Marin County in Larkspur. No signs pointed the way. Google Maps had us going off-road for a half hour, through private property. Even once we tried following the Marin County Parks directions, we missed a turn and ended up back at 101.

On our third attempt, inching along the quiet, forested neighborhood on Madrone Avenue, we realized we might actually find it this time. As we made the turn, the sunny day had turned to twilight, under a thick redwood. In what I can only imagine was an attempt at forest preservation back in the day, the road’s asphalt is poured around the gigantic redwood trees. The trees seemed to have burst through the middle of the road at times, at battle with the crumbling asphalt, and then proceeded to grow to the heavens, not unlike Jack’s beanstalk. Swerve rightish here, to avoid the 5ft wide tree in the middle of the road. I guess at least they didn’t tear them down to make way for the road?




I knew from staring at several maps that the trail started at the end of the road. We had yet to see any signs for it, or for the larger Baltimore Canyon Park. Dave parked in a white outlined space and we set out on foot, through the heavy, damp air.




Sure enough, at the end of the road, a muddy path opened between two homes: the entrance to Dawn Falls Trail.




Nearly instantly, we had walked into what I can only describe as a lush green redwood wonderland. Moss blanketed the ground, the sound of rushing water and a sweet bridge crossed up ahead, framed by a gothic arch of impossibly tall redwood trees. As we looked around in wonder, Dave laughingly hypothesized that maybe Marin was full of these trails, but the locals didn’t want us to find them.




Bean got right to work, finding a walking stick and rocks to throw. The trail, an old fire road, is very wide and nearly flat, so it was an excellent geography for a wandering preschooler. Whether Dave and I passed time staring up into the canopy, or taking in the quiet beauty of the gurgling creek, there were plenty of treasures to find. Bean is in a creepy crawly and mushroom stage, and we found many of those: slugs clung to wet hillsides and patches of mushrooms peeked out from the moss.



(I promise, we found this tree as-is.)

The hike is characterized by ever-changing vistas. The lichen shrouded trees part every now and then to reveal another quaint bridge, tiny waterfalls rush below. The trail wraps around and forward, sometimes with open views of lush fields, sometimes narrow within a canyon of fallen trees and twisted branches.

This forest is mostly new growth, as its behemoths redwoods had been cut down long ago to build San Francisco. The redwoods share space with gnarled Douglas Firs and twisting madrones.




We wouldn’t have been surprised if an actual elf had popped out at some point. That’s just the kind of trail this is.




Our 3 year old can only hike for a couple miles round trip, so we didn’t get to even see the dramatic views I’ve heard exist, namely Dawn Falls itself.

This would be an excellent hike for trail blazers or families alike.



Dawn Falls Trail in Baltimore Canyon

To get to, drive to 434 Madrone Avenue, Larkspur, CA. The trail entrance will be to your left.


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