Corte Madera

I had hoped to squeeze in one more desert peak, but with my daughter leaving for DC for the summer, I could not afford the time. Instead, I opted to knock one of the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks off my list. Corte Madera would fit the bill nicely–not too long and not too far of a drive to the trailhead. I pulled into an empty parking area and hung my Adventure Pass from the mirror. While the car’s thermometer read 37, it did not feel that cold, plus I knew both I and the day would be warming up.

I grabbed my new trekking poles, as I had worn the tips down on my previous pair, and set off. The route to the summit began along a nicely shaded road for about 1/2 mile before I reached the Espinoza Trail. Now I would begin climbing up toward the saddle, with some nice wildflowers scattered along the trail. Once at the saddle, I got my first view of the impressive rock face of Corte Madera. A warning sign had been posted for anyone continuing on the Espinoza trail, to be careful from the fire damage. Off to my left stood the Los Pinos lookout tower and to my right was the road I would follow for a short while.

Another sign pointed to the trail branching off to the left from the road. This portion of the hike would have the more “challenging “ portion of the hike. The gentle climb up the Espinoza would be replaced with a steeper and rockier one. In addition, the overgrowth was also heavier through here as well. 

I passed by a jacket and bag off to the side, which I assume were left by a migrant. After climbing down the rocky section, the trail would now roller coaster toward the summit. My left calf was starting to tighten, so I slowed my pace to give it some relief. I recognized that I was almost at the summit and would have a chance to give it a rest.

As expected, I had the summit to myself. A new wooden sign had been left next to the register. I signed in and snapped my photos, then found a spot to enjoy my orange and take a breather.

I pulled my pack on and began to retrace my route. Not long after leaving the summit, I met my first other hiker. He looked a little lost, as he was staring intently at his phone. I gave him some guidance for the last bit. It turns out he started at Corral Canyon. We each went our separate ways. As I neared that one climbing section, I met the second set of hikers. They recognized me from my blog, and we chatted a bit before continuing. I would encounter another 10 or so by the time I reached the saddle.

Once back on the road to the Espinoza trail, a truck passed me, as did a motorcycle. I had wondered about driving back here for some car camping. Given that the truck looked almost stock, I could probably get my Subaru back here for an evening.

As I made my way down the Espinoza trail, I could feel the day getting warmer and my calf getting tighter. I knew I didn’t have that much further, plus the last 1/2 mile would have some shade and was mostly flat. The car said it was in the low 80s and I would believe it. This time my tracker logged me traveling 7.0 miles in 3:41 with an elevation gain of 1,633 feet.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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