Scheduled Hikes for 2006

  Corte Madera Mountain

Date: November 19, 2006  09:00 AM -  05:00 PM
Hike Group:
San Diego Trail Tramps
Southeast corner of San Diego County, near Buckman Springs and Lake Morena
Today we're headed to 4657' Corte Madera Mountain, in the southern part of San Diego County. Corte Madera Mountain's summit plateau is one of San Diego County's prime view spots, affording a panorama that stretches from Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands to the Sierra Juarez plateau in Baja California. The sheer south face of Corte Madera Mountain can be seen from many parts of metropolitan San Diego, about 35 miles to the west. At one point there's a 300' near-vertical dropoff and from the southernmost point on the plateau you can peer over the abrupt face into the canyon drained by Espinosa Creek. To the southeast is 4805' Los Pinos Mountain, topped by a fire lookout, the last remaining active lookout in San Diego County as of 1998.

As usual, we'll meet at our usual spot in Hillcrest at 9 am to arrange carpools. The drive out to the hike area is about 1 hr. 15 min.

Take I-8 east past Pine Valley (and about 4.5 miles past the Mount Laguna/Sunrise Highway turnoff) to the Buckman Springs Road exit (same as for the Kitchen Creek hike). Turn right from the ramp onto Buckman Springs Road. (It will curve to the left and head south.) Drive 3 miles south of I-8, past the high school, to mile 6.6 and look for a road on the right signed for the Corral Canyon OHV Area. (The turnoff is on a sharp curve to the left on Buckman Springs Road.) Turn west there, onto Corral Canyon Road.

We'll plan to meet a short distance down this road (about 1000' in from Buckman Springs Rd.) at the first curve to the left, and then caravan to the parking area, about 5 miles away to the west.

Continue 5 miles along the Corral Canyon Road on narrow pavement. After passing the old honor camp and a private house with a new wooden fence, you will eventually see a gate with a big red heart painted on it, on the right. This is the curve where the main road leaves the canyon to the left and begins to climb to the OHV area. There is parking just above the heart gate for 3-4 cars, and more nearby below the gate along the main road. Park off the road.

The hike goes around the gate and follows the dirt road up into the oaks. After about 1/2 mile you will see a can with a sign pointing left to the Espinosa Trail, which you follow. This trail has the steepest climb of the hike, especially as it nears the ridge. This trail will lead about 1 mile to a summit and a dirt road (Los Pinos Road). At this point Corte Madera Mtn. is in front of you.

Turn right on the dirt road and follow it toward the next saddle on the main ridge about 1 mile north. At the saddle on the ridge there is a parking area for 4x4s on the left side. The Corte Madera Mtn. Trail leaves the main dirt road to the west, immediately to the right of the parking pullout (you don't walk back into the parking area for the trail, it is closer to the main road). The trail then leads up the hill along the ridge toward the first 4588' knoll (not a bad destination in its own right), then westward to the actual peak.

We'll plan to meet at the caravan/parking area out there about 10:30, drive 5 miles in to the final parking spot, then start hiking between 10:45-11:00 am. 

Hike distance is 6.5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain/loss of 1750'. It's a 3-star hike out of a possible 5-stars, in degree of difficulty, and should take about 4 hrs. roundtrip, plus break and lunch time.

Fees: This trip begins on national forest land, and requires a "National Forest Adventure Pass" for parking at the trailhead. In 1997 the national forests of So. Cal. collectively instituted a recreation fee program called the "National Forest Adventure Pass". Vehicles parked along roadsides and at trailheads are now required to display a National Forest Adventure Pass permit, or else risk being "ticketed". The permit, which costs $5 daily or $30 yearly, can be purchased from any national forest office or ranger station, and from virtually every So. Cal. outdoor equipment and sports vendor. The "stated purpose" of the national forest fee program is to provide funds for protecting natural habitat on national forest lands, and for campground and trail maintenence and improvement... Although the fee's validity is currently in dispute, at least 80 percent of the funds collected through the adventure pass program are supposed to be applied to local projects.

Daily Pass $5
Annual Pass $30
Second Vehicle Pass $5

Directions to pick up a parking pass on the way out to the hike area: Take I-8 East to Alpine & take the Willows Rd. exit and double back on Alpine Blvd. about 1/2 mile to 3348 Alpine Blvd.  The USFS has a tan bldg. with a drive-up window.  There you can purchase a $5 parking pass “National Forest Adventure Pass”.  (Their phone # there is (619) 445-8341 or –6235.)  After purchasing a parking pass, get back on I-8 and continue to head East to the Buckman Springs Road turnoff.

Note: In the maps section of our website, one of the maps for directions on going from San Diego to the Kitchen Creek Falls area, includes the above directions to stop at the National Forest office in Alpine, to pick up an "Adventure Pass".

For safety, be aware of possible snakes in the area (with warmer days, they'll be out sunbathing), and explore together in small groups.

For those who want more info. on the area, check out Schad's book in Area M-9: Pine Creek, Trip 6: Corte Madera Mountain. In the '98 edition, it's on pp. 220-221.
Coulter Pines amid granite boulders