This loop is a classic sampling of what El Corte de Madera (ECdM) Open Space has to offer. There are 3 fun downhills, 3 healthy climbs on maintained doubletrack, lots of singletrack and several trail-side attractions. The ride is plenty challenging, but avoids the most technical riding in the park.
Navigating in ECdM is confusing. Pick up a map at the trailhead and pay attention to the intersections. There are lots of ways to end up very far downhill of your car.
This loop starts from the new parking lot, about 1 mile south of Skeggs point. The ride first goes parallel to Skyline Blvd, so you can start from the other parking areas if you prefer or if the lot is full.
From the lot, ride the Sierra Morena Trail
as it roughly parallels Skyline Blvd. It crosses the top of Gordon Mill Trail
and then Methuselah Trail
which are both fire roads you'll see more of later.
straight across Skyline Blvd from the Methuselah Trail
entrance is Methuselah, one of the few old-growth redwoods in the area.
Continue on the singletrack Sierra Morena Trail
until it ends at Fir Trail Upper at the highest part of the park.
Turn left on Fir Trail Upper (doubletrack) and roll along to the Y-turnoff to Manzanita Trail
. Stay right (uphill) on Fir Trail Upper and soon you reach a 4-way intersection. For this loop, you are aiming straight across the 4-way intersection for the Tafoni Trail
Two trail-side attractions are near this intersection: You can ride down Fir Trail another 1/4 mile to the vista point (picnic table, commemorative plaque), but will have to return to this intersection to continue the loop. Or you can visit the Tafoni sandstone formation a short way down the Tafoni Trail Lower.
Start down Tafoni Trail Lower. To visit the formation, stash your bike at the clearly marked 'no bicycle' trail and walk 0.1 mile to the caves. Or. continue to plummet down Tafoni using caution at a short section with loose rocks and small drops. After a rollicking section of singletrack, it meets with the singletrack El Corte de Madera Creek Trail
Take a hard (hairpin) left at El Corte de Madera Creek Trail
and keep tumbling downhill. The trail steepens as it becomes an old logging road and intersects with the bottom of the Resolution Trail
--stay right and keep dropping downhill. Eventually, you'll cross the creek and have a nice climb out the other side of the canyon on a recently graded dirt road.
After a bit of climbing, turn left on the singletrack North Leaf Trail
. Follow North Leaf as it frolics along watching for the occasional rock, root, drop or short climb. It will meet with Methuselah Trail
--turn left and head downhill.
Methuselah is an old logging road, but rides like a singletrack and then it becomes properly singletrack and crosses the creek over two new wooden bridges. Get up your strength for the biggest climb of the day. It's less than 2 miles, but it will seem longer.
Climb on singletrack out of the creek, and then on maintained fire road. Near the top, it becomes quite steep and is made harder by a series of reverse drainage humps. Shortly afterward, you'll reach another 4-way intersection.
If you are dog tired, turn left and climb a short distance to the Fir Trail Upper (where you came in). Return to your car the way you came in. If you can muster one more (much shorter) climb then more fun trails await:
Turn right on the singletrack Manzanita Trail
and enjoy some old-school Skeggs action. Beware of rocky sections, enjoy the view area, be challenged by a short steep upclimb, and enjoy plummeting through mixed forest until you are ejected onto Timberview Trail
Go left (the direction of the ejection) on Timberview and drop a quarter mile to an intersection at a sandy flat spot in the road. Take a hard right on the singletrack-ish Crosscut Trail
. Shortly after, turn left and head downhill on the singletrack Crossover Trail
. This fun little trail traverses back and forth a few times and then meets Gordon Mill Trail
Turn left (again, the direction of the ejection) and work uphill on Gordon Mill Trail
back to Skyline Blvd. Gordon Mill has an even gentle grade its entire length and is a good way to ride uphill from the bottom of the park.
Achieve Skyline Blvd and take Sierra Morena Trail
back to your car (right turn if you parked at the lot.).
In the 1970s, this area was used by an off-road motorcycle group ("PITS") who developed an extensive network of (mostly very steep) trails. In the 1980s, as logging was winding down an early group of mountain bikers reclaimed many of these trails from the forest. Some examples of these early trails are part of this loop including the top of the Tafoni Trail and parts of the Manzanita Trail
. For the adventuresome (don't go alone), the Fir Trail Lower is indicative of the steep character of the old motorcycle trails.
Many of these old trails are lost behind aging "trail closed" signs, but the open space has built some excellent and challenging new singletrack trails, including the Resolution Trail
, Blue Blossom
, Giant Salamander
, and South Leaf Trail