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Length 10.5 miles
Time 3 hours
Total Climb 2400 feet
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Aerobic Difficulty
Technical Difficulty 

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Skeggs Point (Suggestion 4)


Skeggs Point (El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve) is one of the top candidates for the "best mountain biking location" award in the Bay Area, and might just be my personal number one. The park covers a decent-sized area and features lots of trails, many of them first-class singletrack. These trails also range over a decent spectrum of skill levels.

The terrain of the entire park is rugged, hilly, and under forest cover (with the exception of a couple of small patches of chaparral). The park used to be utilized as a motocross playground for some time before the 1990s. (This thread on MTBR is possibly the single best resource on the Internet regarding the history of this land.) Even before (and during) that, it was a logging area. You'll notice this in the names of numerous trails here. Many fire roads in the park are old logging roads. For the same reason, all of the redwood trees you see in the park are second-growth trees (with at least one notable old-growth exception, marked on the park map).

One issue with Skeggs Point is that it's accessible to the public only via Skyline Boulevard. The park boundary along Skyline is the highest part of the park and the rest of it extends mostly downhill toward the ocean. For this reason, almost all rides at Skeggs are of the "have your fun first while descending, then pay the price while climbing" kind. Not my favorite... But the quality of the trails in the park more than makes up for it, believe me.

It might be worth pointing out that this park has two major parking lots along Skyline Boulevard (in addition to a couple more roadside pockets of parking). The one I'm still in the habit of using is the one at Skeggs Point, which is the one pointed out by the Suggested Parking link on this page. In fact, this lot is not even associated with the park, technically; it's a parking lot of Skyline Boulevard for the Skeggs Point "vista point" (though its "vista" was probably much better before the surrounding vegetation got higher). The common use of this lot for rides here is also the reason El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space is nicknamed "Skeggs Point" among mountain bikers. If you find this parking lot filled up, as it typically will be before midday on most weekends with nice weather, you can try the park's newer parking lot at the gate labeled as "CM00" on the park map, which opened in February 2014. This one is a bit less obvious because it's off the road and entered via a driveway, but you'll see a sign saying "El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space" at the entrance of the driveway, which you can find 0.4 miles north of the intersection with Bear Gulch Road South.

The sheer amount of trails here and the lack of long-distance visibility due to the terrain and tree cover mean that it's easy to get lost in this park. Thankfully, virtually all trail intersections are marked, though I'm sure there may be exceptions, and I know of at least one trail junction sign that seems confusing if not downright incorrect. So, if you have a GPS receiver, you might want to use it, at least in cases when your ride here includes trails on which you'll be riding for the first time. Be warned.


This ride starts out by heading straight to the beginning of Manzanita Trail (via Fir Trail) from the "CM01" gate of the park. Manzanita Trail is one of the prime singletrack trails of this park. It will throw at you some switchbacks, some sunshine, deeply rutted trail sections, flowy singletrack, rocky sandstone, nearly impossible rocky trail obstacles that might qualify as double black diamond, and portions of trail that look more like a creek bed; though not necessarily in that order. This trail is one of the reasons I keep returning to this park! (Manzanita was somewhat sanitized in 2011. The creek-bed-like sections are still there, as well as some of the exposed sandstone features. But the second most technical spot of this trail has now been reduced to a much less dramatic trail feature.)

When Manzanita Trail ends at a junction with Timberview Trail, this ride follows a seemingly roundabout (but fun) route by turning left to catch Crosscut Trail from its northern tip. You then follow Crosscut Trail until its end at another junction with Timberview Trail. Crosscut Trail closely parallels a brief portion of Timberview Trail and is essentially a flat bypass of a hump that Timberview Trail climbs over during that brief segment. In addition, it's a much nicer and narrower trail that follows flatly along the hillside, which is preferable to the comparably boring fire road that is Timberview Trail.

The ride then continues for a short while as a steep fire road descent along Timberview Trail. Make sure you don't miss the turn onto Giant Salamander Trail, which is among the highlights of this ride.

Giant Salamander is one of the crown-jewel singletrack trails of the park. Like many people, I'm sure, I believe that riding Giant Salamander downhill (as in this case) is the better way of experiencing it. It starts with a playful section of tight twists around the trees in an almost-flat wooded area. Then begins a steep and almost straight descent punctuated with berms. Then the slope eases into a nice hillside meander and you even end up having to pedal for a few seconds before you make it to the junction at the end of Giant Salamander.

You are then on Methuselah Trail. Methuselah Trail is the gentlest way to climb back out of the lowest reaches of this park. That doesn't mean that it's an easy climb, though. Let's just call it "moderate". It makes itself felt. From Methuselah, you turn back in the downhill direction on Fir Trail. This ride is made up of two loops. At the beginning of Fir Trail, you can simply bypass the second loop and head straight back to the parking lot instead, if you feel like the second loop might be too much for you. If not, head down Fir Trail for the second "sub-loop".

On Fir Trail, near where a short spur trail splits toward a nearby vista point, you'll notice a memorial plaque in a corner of a small clearing. This is in memory of the people who lost their lives in the crash of the aircraft Resolution in this park. The actual spot is along Resolution Trail; hence the name.

One of the best parts of this ride starts when you turn onto Resolution Trail. This is a twisty, narrow, and technical singletrack gently descending along a steep hillside. You may also notice the few bits and pieces of remaining debris from that plane crash spread over a couple of dozen yards downhill from the trail at one spot somewhere near the halfway point of this trail.

At the next junction, Resolution Trail ends and you turn back (initially) uphill on El Corte de Madera Creek Trail. This trail continues for quite a while as a very pretty singletrack, following mostly level along the hillside. It then starts a short and sweet descent until the crossing to the other side of the creek bed. After this crossing, the climb back out of the park starts, and the trail shortly turns into a fire road. This is one of the steeper climbs back out of the park, unfortunately.

Be aware that the lower portion of Methuselah (partially traversed on this ride) and Giant Salamander Trail are subject to seasonal closures. Make sure you check the park's website (whose link is available on your left) for the trail conditions before you plan your ride.

One unfailing tradition I have for rides at Skeggs is a post-ride lunch at Alice's Restaurant. If you're from the nearby area, you're probably already more than familiar with this place. If you're not, you shouldn't miss it. It's at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Route 84, about four miles further southeast on Skyline Boulevard from the Skeggs Point parking lot. The food is good, and the setting is even better. The place is almost always overflowing with motorcycle riders who stop here on their pleasure rides along Skyline Boulevard. Some cool and fast cars can also be frequently found there for the same reason.

© Ergin Guney


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