Best trail so far. The views are amazing. Don’t forget to pick a permit up for parking. The pine valley store is couple of exist before you get off the freeway. First mile is boring but, after that, it’s gorgeous. Highly recommended

Great fun to be out with so few people around. This is an 8.5 mile trek round trip, not 6.5 miles. I followed the All Trails map here exactly (I had cell service the entire time so I knew I was on the right track at all times). My phone calculated 8.5 miles. It was 2 miles just to get to the crossing of Los Pinos Road with the Espinoza trail, and then over 2 miles more to get to the summit (at the very end of the trail, past the false summits along the way...)

backpacking
6 days ago

The Secret Canyon trail makes for a great overnight backpacking trip. Starting from the Pine Creek trail head and descending to end at the Horsethief trail head makes for a moderate, but technical hike. Packing in water is a must. There are multiple creeks along the trail, some had water, but most don't. Also level camp sites are limited. Overall the trail is quite enjoyable and I would absolutely recommend it.

Nice hike, if you want to beat the heat go early. Make sure to take a hat and enough water. Had lunch at the top very nice view. You need a permit to park that is $5, you have to go to the pine valley store to buy it. The entrance of the trail is by a gate with a red heart. You'll see a sign that says Espinoza trail on a trash can which you'll need to go through and then make a right turn once you reach a dirt road. You'll end up in another dirt road and you'll see a sign about raptors and you'll continue on that trail that will lead you to the top.

My husband and I took this hike on New Years Day. Started off at 11:30 and got back to the car at 4:30. We drank 2L water each, and it was only 65 degrees. Great hike overall. Beautiful mountain scenery and amazing walking views on the way up of Corte Madera, which fits its billing as “San Diego’s Half Dome.” Great spaces for eating lunch on the summit with breathtaking views of many of the county’s other peaks. Note, the trail directions were spot on and very helpful. Pants and long sleeves recommended due to the underbrush. Can be a little windy at the summit so bring layers. Definitely recommend this hike.

Awesome views all around with the potential to see the ocean on a clear day. I would rate this as intermediate. There are some inclines with pretty rocky ones along a couple of segments. However, the inclines are not constant and level off flat before you climb again. Lots of rest in between! The hike takes you along the back of the rock face aka the mini half dome. It gets windy at the peak but the views are vast and beautiful. Not too many people know about this hike so you get lots of seclusion. You can start this hike where AllTrails takes you or, if you have a 4x4 or a high clearance vehicle, you can continue along the dirt road and knock off maybe 1.5-2mi. A car with good suspension might be able to make it too but there are some deep ruts along the way so make sure you steer around those. We finished in ~5 hours with lots of breaks/ pictures in between though. Adventure pass needed to park.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike, excellent views. Other reviews describe the hike well.

We started our hike at Los Pinos Road. We drove up past trail head on Morena Stokes Valley Road, took a right on Los Pinos Road, drove up paved road, and then drove down through open gate near Los Pinos Lookout. About 1.4 miles down rough road, but not a problem for Subaru Forester or other 4x4.1.7-mile hike from the open gravel parking area at intersection with Corte Madera Road (or aka Espinosa Trail).

On Sat, Dec 2 at 9:30am, we got about a mile into this hike and came right up on a Mountain Lion, just off the trail. 200 yards past the trash can sign. He let us know he was there with a BIG growl. We calmly turned the hell around. So keep your ears out on this hike. YEAH NATURE!!!

This is hands down one of the most spectacular backcountry hikes in SD county. It's been on my to do list for a while and I finally got to it.

A few things to note:

This is a backcountry wilderness hike, it's not the potato chip rock. It's in a very remote, far flung area of the county. Drive a reliable vehicle, go with another person, bring basic survival gear, know the weather conditions before you go and prepare accordingly. Check the weather for Pine Valley or Morena Village on your phone, or call a local business and ask what the weather is like. This area can be blazing hot in the summer and below freezing in the winter, it's not San Diego!

The trail is ambiguous in a few spots, a user posted a review further down with really good directions. Around the summit, the trail vanishes in a few spots, so stay sharp. I had a solid phone signal the entire hike and was able to reference this app when needed.

Adventure Pass needed to park in this area, you can buy one for $5 at Pine Valley Store.

I arrived at the trailhead on a Monday morning around 11am. The whole area was shrouded in mist and dense fog. I kind of wanted to abort the mission, but went ahead and got on with it. The emergency rain poncho I've had in my backpack for ages finally came in handy. I would've been 100% screwed without it. Visibility was about 50 yards from trailhead all the way to summit, which was a bit demoralizing and kind of eerie. In terms of difficulty, it's not bad at all. The elevation gain is very gradual throughout. If you've done Iron or Cowles, this one is nothing. It was quite cold and windy as well, and I got pretty wet even with the poncho. I dressed in layers and kept an additional dry layer in my bag which, again, saved my ass. Preparation.

At the summit, the fog began to peel away and the clouds sailed under the peak, opening up the view of the valley below. Pretty incredible sight. By 1pm, it was almost completely clear skies and sun. On my trek back down, I got to look back and see everything I missed on the way up. Very scenic and gorgeous views of the wilderness all throughout.

Got back to the car about 2:30pm, so about 3.5 hours in total. I'll definitely do this one again, and try to go on a crystal clear day!

One of the best hikes in SD. Not as difficult as it's rated. Some of the best views. Very green in November with sparse pine trees that add some surreal beauty to the trail. Make sure you make your way down the to the cliff and just hang out and enjoy the view of the valley. The trail kinda ends at the top, but is regenerated from hikers and climbers making it to the cliff. NEED AN ADVENTURE PASS. Do it.

Great weather, cool at the peak.

Great hike. Curtis' directions were very helpful. Great views, tons of hawks & eagles flying around. Was lucky enough to watch a thunderstorm pass to the north without us getting a drop.

Definitely gets tough towards the second half of the hike, bring plenty of water if you're going on a warm day.

Great views

I agree with all who have said this is a fantastic hike. If you're looking for a true hike, in the wild, with few people around, this is the one. I started at 6:30 am on Saturday and finished around 9:30. I was the only one on the trail until I passed two groups of two near the beginning on my way back. I broke every spiderweb haha.

A few tips:
Take the Espinoza Trail, but when you reach an open area with a sign, go right! It will say no outlet, but that's the way. You will see pine trees immediately on that trail. Follow this until you reach another semi-open area. You will see a faded birds of prey sign, go straight there for Corte Madera.

I should have worn pants, my legs got scratched up from the narrow trail with impeding weeds/plants. There was so poison oak along the beginning of the trail, but I did not run against it and came out unscathed.

Breath-taking views from every spot. Native trees, shrubs and plants abound. Flies are a nuisance, but you're in the wild, deal with it.

Get your parking pass at Pine Valley Store beforehand.

I hiked the trail fasted, just take water and some electrolytes. Anyone in moderate shape should be able to handle this no problem if you take proper precautions.

A nice variety of terrain with just a few steep sections. The last half mile or so to the top is not only very scenic, the pine trees make the air smell great. The constant bugs are definitely annoying. The view at the top is great in all directions and big flat sections of rocks to rest on a while and enjoy the view before heading back. It was a total distance of 7 miles from where I parked on Corral Canyon Rd.

Bring bug spray, the flies were super intense

This was tougher than I originally anticipated. We went on a Monday around 9:00am, got to the top around 10:30 & stayed up there for probably an hour (decided to lay out on the rocks!) Made it back down by 12:45pm. Great views, And there was no one else out there! Which I think was the best part. Great trail, steep climbing at times. If you are not regularly active this may be very difficult.

The dirt road has been graded so no 4WD is needed.

hiking
Sunday, February 05, 2017

A high clearance vehicle with 4 wheel drive recommended if you want to park at the trailhead. Nice trail with a great view!

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