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.