Resolution Loop,
El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
San Mateo County
In brief:
6 mile loop through mostly redwoods in a preserve popular with mountain bikers.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6.2 mile loop hike is easy, with about 800 feet in elevation change. Preserve elevation ranges from about 2300 to 800 feet. This hike starts at about 2300 feet, descends to 1800 feet, then climbs back to the trailhead.

Exposure:
Mix of sun and shade.

Trail traffic:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
3 hours.

Season:
Nice any time.

Getting there:
From CA 92 in San Mateo County, turn south onto Skyline Boulevard (CA 35). Drive about 8.5 miles, past Skeggs Point, then find a safe place to turn around and drive back to the Skeggs Point parking lot (heading south a left turn into the lot is prohibited).

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/421

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3724'39.36"N
Longitude
12218'21.07"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, store, and restaurant about 3.5 miles south at the junction of 84 & 35. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Medium-size paved parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. There are two portable toilets, but no drinking water. Maps available at the information signboard, inside the preserve. There is no direct public transportation to the trailhead. No designated handicapped parking, and there is no wheelchair route to the trailhead from the parking lot.

Rules:
All trails but the short path to the tafoni are multi-use. Dogs are not permitted. Preserve is open from dawn to 1/2 hour after sunset.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Corte Madera page.
MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
• Map from MROSD (download El Corte de Madera pdf)
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of two El Corte de Madera Creek Redwoods hikes.
• 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Ann Marie Brown (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and a good hike description.
• Tom Taber's Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).

Resolution Loop in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.





Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

There are some parks and preserves in the bay area that are so beloved (some may even say loved to death) Skeggs Point Trailheadthat it is tough to find any peace and quiet there. People around here adore being outdoors so much that even on Superbowl Sunday (when in many US cities even the parts department at Sears is empty) you'll find plenty of folks on the trails. My sure-fire tip for having any preserve to yourself is simple: go on a weekday, in the winter, or when it is raining. This technique always pays off on visits to El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. In damp weather and early weekdays I generally cross paths with a handful of cyclists and hikers.
     El Corte de Madera is a lovely, large, challenging, and contentious preserve. The beauty is evident as soon as you step onto a trail: redwoods, huge Douglas firs, creeks, sandstone formations, pockets of chaparral, and long views to the west all can be found here. But, along the extensive trail system, you might notice that it's tough to throw a pine cone through El Corte de Madera without hitting a cyclist. Tafoni TrailAlthough mountain biking is said to have started on Mount Tam, it certainly seems to have moved en masse to Corte Madera. The impressive acreage, and variety of trails (including singletracks) and terrain make El Corte de Madera a favorite for cyclists. MROSD has responded to the popularity of the preserve by opening every trail but one (the short path to the sandstone formation) to cyclists, a unusual move in the realm of local park management. Many cyclists are responsible, level-headed, cooperative types. The cycling advocacy group ROMP even worked with the MROSD to hand-build the North Leaf Trail, and helps to maintain many other trails in the preserve. Other cyclists seem determined to use El Corte de Madera (as well as some other adjacent parks along Skyline) as their personal playgrounds. Despite the MROSD's best efforts to squelch illegal trails, there are many deep gashes made by bicycles in hillsides, and even in some places, longer stretches of unauthorized trails.El Corte Madera Creek Trail
     Some hikers simply stay away from El Corte de Madera, tired of confrontations with cyclists. It's a shame to skip this preserve,though. There are many loop possibilities, and a few trailheads from which to enter. Most people use the parking lot at Skeggs Point as a trailhead, as you are most likely to find a place to park there. If you want to avoid an upside down hike (a descent followed by an ascent), you can park at one of the tiny pullouts along Bear Gulch or Star Hill Road; look for the MROSD gates marked with CM08, CM06, etc., and pay attention to signage related to parking. These roads are very narrow, so drive with caution, and respect the privacy of local homeowners.Bridge across El Corte de Madera Creek
     Start at the Skeggs Point parking lot, and walk north along the side of Skyline Boulevard about 0.05 mile. Cross carefully and enter the preserve through gate CM01. At the gate a paved road splits uphill to the left, but stay to the right on Tafoni Trail. The broad multi-use trail ascends a short distance, through a melange of Douglas fir, tanoak, madrone, hazelnut, coast live oak, and buckeye. Forget-me-not, a non-native wildflower, is very common along the trail, blooming from late winter through early summer. Tafoni Trail descends to a signed junction at about 0.12 mile. Bear right onto El Corte de Madera Creek Trail.El Corte Madera Creek Trail
      Multi-use El Corte de Madera Creek Trail begins a moderate descent. Initially you may see clumps of invasive broom along the trail, but soon more admirable woodland plants and trees take over. Big-leaf maple and California bay are dwarfed by towering Douglas fir. Look for bluewitch nightshade, iris, foxglove, and thimbleberry blooming in late spring. Traffic noise fades away, and the soothing sound of trickling water accompany walks in all but the driest months. Gradually vegetation becomes incredibly lush, and redwoods appear, along with huckleberry, gooseberry, and wild rose. Look for hound's tongue in early spring and starflower later, in June. At about 0.8 mile, El Corte de Madera Creek Trail veers left and crosses a bridge (this looks like a junction, but there is no longer a trail straight ahead). Resolution Trail
     The trail shrinks to a narrow path, but remains multi-use. El Corte de Madera Creek Trail heads slightly uphill into a canyon, but takes a sharp turn right and instead crosses a forested hillside. Redwood and tanoak dominate, but you might also see California bay, madrone, and huckleberry. Trilliums and redwood sorrel bloom close to the ground in spring.The trail lingers near 2000 feet, and hiking is easy on this stretch. At about 1.8 miles, you'll reach a signed junction with Tafoni Trail. You can shorten your hike by more than a mile if you turn left onto Tafoni here. Stay to the right, continuing on El Corte de Madera Creek Trail.
     
At a damp spot a grove of giant chain ferns thrive. The trail continues through a forest of redwood, tanoak, and madrone, at a nearly level pace. Some redwood stumps and trunks are charred from a fire. At about 2.7 miles, you'll reach a signed junction. In June look for wild strawberries at this split. El Corte de Madera Creek Trail A rocky stretch on Resolution Trailpersists to the right, making its way eventually south -- you can add 4 miles on to this loop if you continue on El Corte de Madera Creek Trail, then North Leaf, Methuselah, and Fir Trail. Turn left onto Resolution Trail.
     
After miles of easy hiking, a very short moderate ascent is a surprise. The multi-use trail levels out again, though, almost right away, and then winds through redwood, madrone, and tanoak. Resolution Trail is named after a British Commonwealth Pacific Airline DC-6 which crashed into the side of the mountain in October 1953. Eight crew members and eleven passengers died in the accident, View from Resolution Trailwhich left debris strewn throughout the forest. Sharp-eyed hikers might see a few twisted scraps of metal -- remember it's illegal (and stupid) to remove any artifacts from the preserve. In a brief stretch of chaparral manzanita muscle their way into the woods, but the shrubs quickly defer again to redwoods, some of the most majestic of this hike.At a sharp switchback left, Resolution Trail begins to ascend at a slightly steeper grade. The trail becomes very rocky, and one area is stripped of topsoil, leaving a sandstone surface. Manzanita, shrubby oaks, Douglas fir, madrone, chamise, chinquapin, pitcher sage, toyon, monkeyflower, ceanothus, and yerba santa crowd the trail as it climbs. The sloping chaparral-covered hillside permits a rare view south, to an ocean of conifers. At about 3.8 miles, Resolution Trail ends at a T junction. Turn left onto Fir Trail.Path to the sandstone formation
     Climbing at a moderate grade, multi-use Fir Trail is initially lined with madrone, Douglas fir, chaparral pea, yerba santa, ceanothus, manzanita, and toyon. Not far from the junction if you scan the ground in June you might see yerba buena, a wild mint and the original namesake of San Francisco. As Fir Trail ascends, a forest of redwood, madrone, tanoak, and Douglas fir shades the route. At about 3.9 miles two paths on the left, a few feet apart, double back and head uphill a short distance to the vista point. If it's a cold, sunny, and clear day, the small hilltop clearing is a good option for lunch. Continue straight on Fir Trail.Viewing platform and sandstone formation
     Fir Trail presses on uphill, and at about 4.1 miles you'll reach a signed multi-trail junction at a flat. Make the first left onto Tafoni Trail (if you want to skip the short out-and-back to the sandstone formation, continue straight/left onto Tafoni).
     The broad multi-use trail descends easily, still in a forest of redwood, madrone, huckleberry, and tanoak. At about 4.2 miles, look on the right for an easy-to-miss junction with the path to the tafoni. Turn right onto the hiking-only path.
     The slight path winds through madrones, descending easily. A segment of fence directs visitors away from the tafoni, on an extension built in 2002. You'll continue to descend until the end of the trail, at the base of the massive sandstone formation, a tafoni pocked with honeycombed indentations and tiny caves. A small viewing platform makes a perfect lunch stop. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the multiple junction with Tafoni and Fir Trails. Turn left, remaining on Tafoni Trail.Tafoni Trail
     Like most fire roads, wide Tafoni Trail wanders up and down a bit as it travels through a mixed woodland of Douglas fir, madrone, tanoak, and redwood. Traffic noise from Skyline Boulevard is a hint that the hike is almost over. At about 6.1 miles you'll reach a previously encountered junction, with El Corte de Madera Creek Trail. Stay to the right on Tafoni Trail, and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: about 6.2 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, June 13, 2002