Mountain Biking Beneath the Redwoods of El Corte de Madera Open Space

While Marin County to the north of San Francisco was home to some decent mountain biking, the peninsula to the south of the city boasts some fantastic singletrack, including many more miles of legal trails. Since we already had a significant amount of information in our the database on trails in the Redwood City/Palo Alto area, I didnt get to spend much time riding in the area.

But there was one trail that I just had to check out: El Corte de Madera.

Singletrack in El Corte de Madera Open Space.

El Corte de Madera is an open space, which in practice translates to much looser management than many of the Regional Parks in the Bay Area, as well as a much wilder feel.

The way the trails are laid out, alternating from singletrack to doubletrack to forest roads and back again, reminded me vividly of Panthertown Valley in North Carolina. While the vegetation and natural wonders in each of these places is drastically different, both locations are a spaghetti bowl of old forest roads and newer trails connecting them, allowing a rider in El Corte de Madera to easily put together a 20-30 mile ride… if not more.

Many of the trails close to the Skeggs Point trailhead where we parked are regularly traveled, with some excellent, classic benchcut singletrack wrapping around the hillsides, hidden deep beneath the vaulted canopy of the mighty redwood trees.

Riding the Airborne Goblin beneath the massive redwoods.

Further away from Skeggs Point, the singletrack got fainter and fainter with more and more elevation change, dropping steeply down into the bottom of lush ravines with a babbling brook to cross, and then climbing so steeply up the other side of the ravine that I would have to hike-a-bike for a ways.

Massive trees.

As the trail grew narrower the further I got from my trailhead, I truly felt like I was out in the wilderness even though I wasnt ever very far from a decent road. Since my wife had gone for a shorter ride and was waiting for me back at the trailhead, I was trying to be conscious of the time, and eventually decided to cut my route short and head back toward the trailhead. What I didnt realize until I finally got back was that the trailhead we parked at was essentially the high point in the trail system, and I had been, aside from a few climbs, descending almost the entire time. From where I turned around, I ended up climbing about 2,000 vertical feet straight back up some steep gravel roads to the trailhead. Since I was already ready to be done by the time I turned around, it was quite the ordeal!

The forest surrounding the trails on the peninsula are typically greener and more vibrant than the dry grass hills of the mainland (although there are a couple beautiful stands of trees there as well).

In the end I rode 17.8 miles and climbed 4,075 vertical feet over the course of the ride. As you can imagine, it was pretty intense, but after the anti-mountain biker prejudice evident in the East Bay, I was ecstatic to be riding such gorgeous singletrack, and to absorb the beauty of the mighty redwood trees that I had only ever seen in books and movies before this trip.

Your Turn: Have you ever ridden in the Bay Area? If so, what’s your favorite (legal) trail?