First off, let's clarify the name. It may be El Corte Madera Creek Open Space Preserve (ECM) on the maps, but in the hearts and minds of locals, it's known as Skeggs, which is short for Skeggs Point, a prominent vista point and staging point on Skyline Drive (Highway 35) overlooking the Bay side of the peninsula.

Around the Bay Area, especially with mountain bikers, the name Skeggs is spoken in the hushed, reverent tones usually reserved for a place of worship, which is fitting, because Skeggs is a church of nature that provides sanctuary and solace from the ever-encroaching anxiety of the modern world.

Established in 1988, ECM is a labyrinth of old logging, motorcycle, hiking, and game trails that cover 2,821 acres of the western slope of the peninsula's coastal range. Positioned along scenic Skyline Drive midway between Highway 84 to the south and Highway 92 to the north, the preserve features 36 miles of multiuse trails that wend their way down the Pacific side of the coastal range from the Skyline cordillera to the foothills of the coastal plain.

The ECM stretches back nearly 180 years into the history of San Mateo County. Originally part of the Rancho el Corte de Madera dating back to the 1830s, the El Corte Madera Creek watershed was heavily logged from the 1860s to the 1980s by local companies such as Big Creek Lumber. Even so, there are still some stands of old-growth Redwood presiding majestically over their ancestral habitat. In October 1953, a wayward DC-6 airliner met its ultimate demise on the rugged slopes of Corte Madera Canyon, killing all 19 people aboard. The preserve's Resolution Trail was named for and dedicated to the victims. In the early 1970s, it was a motorcycle park. Mountain bikers showed up in 1986.


The Tafoni Sandstone is pretty trippy, even before the mushrooms kick in.