Corte Madera Mountain Hike
Nestled in San Diego's backcountry is Corte Madera, a 500-foot sheer cliff face known as “San Diego's Half Dome.” In this guide, I'll show you how to hike to the top: no cables or scary parts included. I'll also include a side trip to Los Pinos Mountain, home to a fire tower since 1925. The hike has some uphill sections but is doable for almost everyone.
- Video and Turn By Turn Directions
- How to Get to the Trailhead
- What to Watch Out For & Insider Tips
Where is Corte Madera Mountain?
There's no official parking lot for Corte Madera Mountain, but there is a sand parking lot on the side of the road. The drive there includes some small roads will potholes, but it is doable by all cars. Expect to go slower in the last couple of miles to the trailhead.
Gear For the Hike
If you're unfamiliar with the San Diego backcountry, summers can be scorching, and winters can be below freezing. The best season for this hike is in the winter when the temperatures are cooler, and the plants are green.
Corte Madera is a backcountry hike, and you should pack the essentials. Generally, 2L of water works well, as do trail runners and trekking poles. Cellular service is sketchy, so bring your satellite communicator.
Gear That I Love Right Now
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Corte Madera Trail Maps
In this guide, I'll show you how to hike to Corte Madera and then add a side trip to the fire tower at Los Pinos Mountain. Including the Los Pinos extension adds about 4 miles to the total distance.
How Will You Navigate?
Corte Madera Hike Directions
The cliff face of Corte Madera can be closed during nesting season. This mainly affects climbers, but it's worth checking the closure alerts before you leave just in case.
Corte Madera means "woodyard." The early Spanish settlers used this area to fell lumber to build the Mission San Diego. As you start hiking up Los Pinos road, you'll start to see the Coutler Pines that they used.
As you approach the summit you'll see several spots used by others for backcountry camping. If you'd like to camp, you'll need to get a backcountry permit.
From the summit, head back down to the big intersection by the Espinosa Trail and Los Pinos Road.
Los Pinos Mountain Hike Extension
From Los Pinos Mountain, just go back the way you came to the Espinosa Trail and then back down that to the start.
Need More Info?
- Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
- When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.