Trail difficulty
Blue
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
35.90 mi (57.78 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve is a mountain biker's playground. All of the preserve's 36 miles of trails are open to cyclists, and it is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in the San Francisco area. Trails include wide access roads, fast singletrack, and exposed, rocky tooth shakers. Cut into a forested hillside, the preserve's elevation changes make for gear-grinding ascents and fast descents, while the variety of trail choices let mountain bikers choose where on the thrill scale they want to ride. The preserve has many interweaving trails in a fairly compact space, allowing for seemingly infinite permutations but also requiring careful navigation. The preserve is managed by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which provides an excellent map available for free download.

The preserve is shared with hikers and equestrians, so all users need to be aware and considerate of each other to ensure safety and enjoyment for everyone. Mountain biking tends to rule the day here, but it is certainly not an exclusive use.

The 2,817-acre preserve was created in 1988 on land with a history of redwood logging. The vegetation is typical of second-growth preserves in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with mixed evergreen and redwood forests. The riparian habitat is lush and generally dense, but exposed ridges and outcroppings provide nice views of the Pacific Ocean. Unique sandstone formations can also be found, most notably on the aptly named Tafoni Trail. The Resolution Trail winds through a ravine that is the 1953 crash site of a DC-6 aircraft of the same name. A small monument to those who perished is situated at the beginning of the trail, near an overlook point with a picnic table and views over the ravine and beyond to the ocean.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Pros

A mountain biker's playground.

Cons

Weekend crowds. Bicyclists and hikers share trails.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

900.00 ft (274.32 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,600.00 ft (487.68 m)

Features

Historically significant
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Hiking
Horseback

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

10/05/2018
My go to midweek mt bike place (once a month for the last 5 years). Parking at 2300' trails down to 800' elevation sounds like a recipe for mindless work. A very similar park 5 miles north (Purisima Creek) is just that : all down, down, down then all up, up, agonizing up. Not so at El Corte de Madera. Why? the trail system goes down, up, & sideways in ways that make for very interesting biking loops.
One of my favorites covers the northern part of the park: from the new big parking lot warm-up on Sierra Morena's rolling course paralleling the ridge, shoot down El Corte de Madera creek, climb back up Taffoni (stop to see the interesting rock formation) then back down Fir & Resolution trail (a rocky, technical zig & zag) fast down to ECdM creek back up a short stretch to a rolling North Leaf that is technically mild enough to be able to keep momentum on the up sections then down Methuselah for a fast, flowy section with enough water bars to make this almost as much fun as the Soquel Demo Forest Flow trail down to the 2 new bridges across ECdM Cr pause for a mystical redwood moment and then pay the piper with an almost 2 mile climb to the Manzanita trail for some very rocky technical stuff then climb out back to Sierra Morena to the parking lot.
Did I mention that when the valley is 85-90 F it's often 15+ degrees cooler here (some times a fog bank covers the park in summer). Oh, and don't forget to check out the monster Methuselah Redwood Tree across the road from the middle parking turn-out.
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