I’ve been waiting for the summer heat to let up on the peninsula before checking out El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space. However, since much of this hike is in shaded forest, it’s probably a good year-round option. Even a cold, foggy morning or evening hike would make for a dramatic and moody atmosphere. The preserve is only 8 miles from the CA-92 & CA-35 junction. You can park at Skeggs Point, or go a bit further, as we did, to a gate marked CM02 on the map.
Our hike began at the Methuselah Trail, which took us on a winding uphill course through quiet, sun-filtered woods. The paths in this preserve seem fairly wide and are easy-going, but listen for approaching mountain bikers. At the first junction, we followed the sign toward Fir Trail and took that out to the Vista Point, which features a long view to the west (partially obscured by surrounding trees). We rested at the picnic table before backtracking and then followed the signs to the sandstone formation. This was easily the highlight of the hike and is a mere .2mi out-and-back detour from Fir Trail. The geological marvel features delicate ‘stone lace’ and is millions of years old. Once a part of a deep ocean marine basin, it reached its current location after the waters receded and tectonic motion carried it there.
At this point, we could choose between Fir Trail or Tafoni Trail in the direction of Skyline. We decided on Tafoni Trail, which turned out to be mostly downhill. The sound of leaves, branches, and cones dropping out of trees and into the underbrush was common. Tafoni Trail spit us out near Skeggs Point. From here we got back on Fir Trail for a short distance until we hit Sierra Morena (narrower and bumpier, so watch out again for adventurous mountain bikers). Sierra Morena roughly follows along Skyline and meets up with Methuselah near the parking area.
For a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, I expected to see a lot more people on the trail. Instead we had large stretches of the hike to ourselves. El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space is quicker to access for those coming from the north and its quiet woods make for a peaceful nature hike.