Corte Madera Mountain Trail

HARD 95 reviews
#14 of 119 trails in

Corte Madera Mountain Trail is a 6.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Morena Village, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

6.4 miles
1404 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips



wild flowers



The trail is great for hiking and normally takes a half day. Start off along an oak lined road and then take a left and head out through San Diego typical shrubbery. When you reach the main saddle you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view of Corte Madera Mountain, which some call San Diego's half dome. From there you'll head northwest along a dirt road and then branch off onto a single track trail. As you head up, you'll be rewarded with pine trees, granite boulders and wonderful views of the surrounding Cuyamaca and Laguna mountains. It can be cold in the winter, so make sure to layer. There is some shade on the trail so it might be good for hiking all year round. Take your time and enjoy the views!

4 hours ago

Very nice hike. Beautiful views. There are shady spots throughout the trail. The incline is steady so you get a good workout.

2 days ago

Just beyond epic

8 days ago

1 month ago

Beeeeauuutiful. At the first juncture stay on the right then at the second one follow the tall brown arrow sign. The views at the top really hit your soul.

1 month ago

In my opinion, this hike should be rated as moderate. I did it during the rain with no problem. The views are awesome.

1 month ago

Tried to do an overnight trip here, but the rain and wind sent us packing to the car and down to Alpine for some burgers and beer. My fellow hikers and I didn't bring enough cold weather gear and trying to stay warm in wet jeans wasn't working out for them. The trail wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Its pretty well defined about 70% of the time, so you need to stay focused. The Manzanitas that line the trail throughout the hike are cool, some were completely covered in the bright red bark. When the fog did clear the views were exceptional. We were able to snap a few pics and then the fog and rain came back with a vengeance. There's a good spot off the trail to set up camp about 3/4 of a mile from the peak, there is also appears a good spot further down at the Los Pinos trail junction. Will definitely be coming back when the weather clears up for another try at an overnighter.

2 months ago

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

2 months ago

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...)

2 months ago

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.

3 months ago

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.

3 months ago

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.

4 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).

4 months ago

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!!!

4 months ago

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!

5 months ago

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.

6 months ago

Great weather, cool at the peak.

7 months ago

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.

8 months ago

8 months ago

Great views

8 months ago

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.

9 months ago

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.

10 months ago

Bring bug spray, the flies were super intense

Monday, April 17, 2017

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.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

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

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!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Being my first time in the area, this hike blew me away. There were great views from start to finish, especially from the summit. Go on a clear day because the sunset is top notch. To put the icing on the cake, there are bolts on the face if you're into climbing.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I really enjoyed this hike. Options for different variations on the trail. I was up there back in September. The sky was so clear that day that I could see all the way to Point Loma from the top!! Incredible (:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Great views, particularly in the last segment. Some pretty serious uphill segments. Very much enjoyed the hike -- took longer than expected. 7.2 miles in about 4 hours.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Good hike with some cardio work out. Beautiful view well worth it.

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