Some have refered to Corte Madera Mountain as the Half Dome of San Diego and as one approaches the steep cliff face you can understand why, although the don't look that much a like. The name Corte Madera ("woodyard") apparently refers to the use of this area as a source of timber during the building of the San Diego area missions. Corte Madera Mountain is a great hike if you’re looking for some peace and quite and getting in touch with the outdoors. A somewhat long drive, rugged dirt road, and limited parking means that not too many people venture out for this hiking area. But because of when one partakes in this hike, ones effort will be rewarded with a peaceful trail that takes one through dense creekside oaks, hills covered in chaparral, hillsides speckled with beautifully colorful boulders, tons of manzanita bushes, Coulter pines, and finally amazingly vast views of the southern portion of the Cleveland National Forest.
Heading east on I-8 take the Buckman Springs Road exit. Turn right on Buckman Springs Road and continue for approximately 3 miles to Corral Canyon Road. Turn right onto Corral Canyon Road and continue for 4.8 miles until you reach a hairpin turn in the road. You’ll see a green gate on your right before the turn (This is the trailhead). Just around the bend on your left is the small dirt parking area, which is for about 4 cars
First, squeeze around the gate and walk 0.5 mile uphill on Kernan Road. Where the road bends right in a horseshoe curve, go left on the Espinosa Trail and continue northwest. After one more mile of climbing, you top a saddle and intersect Los Pinos Road. Turn right and continue 0.3 mile to another saddle, this one a half mile southeast of boulder-studded, Coulter-pine-dotted peak 4588 (4588 being its elevation in feet). Leave the road there and find and follow a narrow path that works its way up and over peak 4588 and across another saddle just northwest of the same peak.
Continue following the path northwest, then finally southwest along a crest to the summit plateau of Corte Madera Mountain. The view north includes a fabulous vista, available nowhere else on public land, of privately owned Corte Madera Valley. A beautiful lake and oak-studded meadows fill the valley. The name Corte Madera ("woodyard") apparently refers to the use of this area as a source of timber during the building of the San Diego area missions.
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous with 1800-foot elevation loss/gain. Trekking poles recommended for steep sections. The trail is mostly narrow and rocky once leaving the fire road.
The cliff face of Corte Madera is typical nesting habitat for raptors like hawks, owls, falcons and golden eagles. It’s important to be aware of the possibility of nesting raptors in the area and not disturb any wildlife. Because of this, the Corte Madera area is subject to seasonal closures – you can check the Cleveland National Forest website for closure information, or call their office at 858-673-6180. An Adventure Pass is required for parking. No Facilities.
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External LinksUSDA Forest Service: Cleveland National Forest – Espinosa Trail