Tafoni Trail Loop

On this easy trail in El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve, see a plane crash memorial, ocean views, and a remarkable sandstone formation on just one walk through the woods.

4 miles RT; 300 ft climbing; easy to moderate
Tafoni Trail —> Fir Trail —Tafoni Trail —> El Corte de Madera Creek Trail

This little loop within El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve offers about as much truly amazing variety as could possibly fit in four short miles.

Park at the Skeggs Point parking turnout on Skyline Boulevard. Head north a bit before crossing the road to the clearly marked trailhead. Grab a map and take off, following signs for the well-marked Tafoni Trail. An easy, shady walk of just under a mile brings you to an intersection; take the left to follow the Fir Trail.

Shortly a somber memorial for the Resolution plane crash anchors a small clearing. Turn right and take a dozen or so strides to gain Vista Point. The small clearing offers a range of narrow, but lengthy, views, depending on the clouds. Perch on the picnic table here for extended sea- and sky-viewing programs.

Retrace the route back to the start of Fir Trail and turn left onto Tafoni Trail. Shortly thereafter follow a spur through a wooden gate on the right to spy the famed Tafoni boulder. A quick stroll will reveal the formation, sitting as stark as an errant skull among the trees.

Tafoni is actually the term for the surprisingly delicate rock latticework running along the face of this large chuck of sandstone. Deposited in the ocean long ago and compressed by the weight of the overlying sediments, the rock was drug up and shoved skyward, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains, by the dynamic tectonic forces of the San Andreas Fault. The whole process only took a few million years or so.

The result is as artful as it is fragile. Never touch Tafoni. Words to live by, folks.

Head back to the main trail and turn right, walking nearly a mile before swinging right again to follow El Corte de Madera Creek Trail back to the beginning. A series of bridges stair step up the tumbling stream beneath towering redwoods on the way back up to the parking lot.

—L. Clark Tate

Back to El Corte de Madera