Hiker in El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve. (Karl Gohl)

El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve

Hiker in El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve. (Karl Gohl)

Overview

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illustration of bicyclist riding on trail

More than 34 miles of multiuse trail are available for exploration at the 2,908-acre El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. While this preserve is extremely popular with bicyclists, it also has lots of hearty hiking and horseback riding opportunities. Visitors will find creekside trails through mixed evergreen and redwood forests, enjoy ocean views, admire rare sandstone formations and experience a sense of remoteness.

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Hiking: All Trails
Hiking: All Trails
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Bicycling: Designated Trails
Bicycling: Designated Trails
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Equestrian: All Trails
Equestrian: All Trails
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Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
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Easy Access: Designated Trails
Easy Access: Designated Trails
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Camping: No Camping
Camping: No Camping
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Restrooms: Available
Restrooms: Available

Preserve Highlights & Features

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Preserve visitors at the Tafoni rock formation in El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve. (Sandra Martin
Preserve visitors at the Tafoni rock formation in El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve. (Sandra Martin

Tafoni Rock Formations

From the Tafoni Trail visitors to this preserve can see unique sandstone formations called Tafoni. Cave-like indentations and delicate honeycomb structures are formed in the sandstone by just the right combination of weather and atmospheric conditions. 

It takes hundreds of years for tafoni to form. Please admire these fascinating geologic features from the observation deck and not climb the rocks so that others may enjoy them for years to come. 

Stories from the Preserves

Nature

Here are some of the plants and animals that other visitors have observed at this preserve and recorded in iNaturalist. Protected species may be excluded and some species may not yet have been observed. Help improve iNaturalist by adding your observations to the Midpen Biodiversity Index project

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Know Before You Go

Preserve regulations help provide a safe, enjoyable visit while protecting sensitive areas and wildlife. 

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YIELD. Bicycles yield to hikers and equestrians. HIkers yield to equestrians.

Share the Trail 

  • Use designated trails to avoid damage to natural resources and prevent injury. 

  • Avoid blocking the trail. Step aside to allow others to pass .  

  • Whether you’re walking or biking, always yield to equestrians. 

  • Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. Most preserves do not have trash cans. Littering is prohibited. 

  • Abuses of trail etiquette should be brought to the attention of a ranger or call the Midpen main office at 650-691-1200. 

Activities & Events

There are currently no events scheduled.

History

The Spanish phrase “el corte de madera” roughly translates to “cutting wood,” referring to the clear-cut logging that took place here, starting in the 1860s. As San Francisco flourished following the discovery of gold in California, logging the coastal redwood forests supplied building materials for the growth. The remote nature of this preserve, coupled with its steep terrain, kept loggers away until the 1860s. Resourceful entrepreneurs spent the next 50 years building and operating eight different mills adjacent to the creeks of the preserve. Around the turn of the century, the mills were closed or nearing the end of their economic viability. Modern selective logging continued periodically until 1988, shortly after the preserve was created.

Be watchful when visiting the preserve. With a little imagination and a good eye, telltale signs of past history are still evident. You might notice a flattened pad where a mill or cabin once stood, or the rusted remains of heavy equipment, abandoned when the mills were no longer economical to operate. Numerous logging roads are still evident, most of which are now trails. With a little help, nature has incredible healing powers: the deep canyons have regenerated dense stands of second-growth redwoods. While most of the giant old-growth redwoods were logged, a few awe-inspiring giants remain to be seen.