Monday, June 30, 2014

60 Hikes in 60 Miles in 60 Weeks: Week Forty-three
Cataract-Potrero Meadow Loop
Leopard lilies blooming along Cataract Creek

What it's like:
This is a cream of the crop 6.5 mile Mount Tamalpais excursion along a creek, through deep woods, meadows, and chaparral. I have had some unforgettable moments on this loop; you will too!

Why now:
Woods are shaded and cool. Expect to see clouds of damselflies, butterflies, and dragonflies.

If you can't make it this week:
There may be no better Bay Area hike to experience our seasons. Rushing water and falls on Cataract Trail are the essence of winter. Wildflowers brighten the forest floor every February, when the exotic Calypso orchid blooms midst more prosaic milkmaids, hound's tongue, and shooting stars. Some flowers persist into summer; look for leopard lilies at the edge of upper Cataract Trail and azaleas near streams in the woods. In autumn bigleaf maples are gorgeous crunching underfoot.

Insider tip:
Some hikers have reported that this hike feels considerably longer than the stated distance. I concure (although I believe the mileage is correct, based on my GPS and checked against other maps). Cataract has some short steep rocky sections, High Marsh constantly dips up and down, and Kent and Benstein are narrow paths that often require concentration. The elevation changes and rocky bits add up, making the hike pretty challenging. Consider shortening this hike to about 3 miles (with easier elevation change) with this combination: Cataract, Mickey O'Brien, and Simmons. A detailed map and good navigation skills are essential for hiking this part of Tam.

Cataract-Potrero Meadow Loop is hike number 7 in 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: San Francisco (third edition)Read about this hike on BAHiker.

Alternate choice:
When my son was a preschooler we spent many a morning hiking at kid-friendly Milagra Ridge. This small preserve east of Pacifica is mostly coastal scrub, with sweeping 360 degree views. Trails are nearly flat and in summer look for a variety of colorful butterflies, including the endangered San Bruno elfin and mission blues.

Post your comments and experiences here or on the BAHiker Facebook page.


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