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Lawrence Creek Trail

El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve

July 2nd, 2015

11.1 miles
2120 vertical feet
Total Time: 6:41

Starting elevation
2250 feet
Max elevation
2250 feet

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Interstate 280 in Woodside, take Woodside Road west. Turn right onto Kings Mountain Road and follow the narrow winding road to Skyline Boulevard. Turn left onto Skyline. Pass Skeggs Point (the large lot above to the left) and then another tiny parking area on the right. Enter the large signed and paved parking lot for El Corte de Madera on the right. The lot is relatively new, having just opened in March 2014.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

We started off from the new parking area at the Sierra Morena Trailhead (the southernmost entrance to the park on Skyline Boulevard). There were only a handful of cars here on this late Thursday morning.

It was quite warm as were started the hike, but the hike is mostly shaded. The trail starts off relatively flat for about 0.3 miles as it mostly parallels Skyline Boulevard. There are some brief views looking down toward the coast, but nothing spectacular.

At a large intersection near Skyline, we turned left and started descending the Oljon Trail. After about 0.6 miles, we turned right onto the Steam Donkey Trail. We stayed on the Steam Donkey Trail as it intersects into the Gordon Mill Trail. After about a mile on the Steam Donkey Trail, we made a wrong right turn toward the Gordon Mill Trail; after 0.1 miles we backtracked and continued toward the Spring Board and Blue Blossom Trails. After about 0.8 miles of mostly uphill (the map says 0.4 miles, but the GPS says otherwise), we reached the intersection of those two trails and stopped for lunch.

Heading down the Oljon Trail

Further along the Oljon Trail

This park is very popular with mountain bikers, even more so than nearby Purisima Creek OSP. Although you'll encounter fast bikers on singletrack trails, the ones we ran into were courteous and slowed down as they passed. We made sure to let them know how many hikers were ahead of them, and they let us know how many bikers were still behind them.

We also found two dead rats on the trail, which is interesting since the only other dead rat we'd seen on a trail before was last month in Purisima Creek OSP, which is nearby. I wonder if there's something killing them... We also sadly saw a butterfly that looked like it might have been wounded, and then later a snake that looked to be dead on the trail. I wonder if the drought had anything to do with this, or if it was just coincidence. I'm sure animals die out here all the time and we just don't notice.

Through the forest

Butterfly on the trail

After lunch, we took the Blue Blossom Trail (both trails go to the same location, and in about the same distance). The trail starts out flat but then starts climbing again. After about 1.2 miles we reached the top near the intersection with the Spring Board Trail. From here, we continued along the Lawrence Creek Trail, which starts a long descent.

We didn't really see much in the way of water on this hike. I'm sure it's nicer in winter, but in general the vegetation and views here don't compare to Purisima Creek OSP.

Redwood forest


After about 2.1 miles on the Lawrence Creek Trail, we reached our next intersection. The Virginia Mill Trail continues to the left (toward Star Hill Road); after a brief break we took the right trail toward the Gordon Mill Trail. The trail continues the descent for about 0.4 miles, then starts the long climb back up (steep at times). We climbed about 900 feet up in the next 1.7 miles. Along the way we turned left onto the Timberview Trail, then right to stay on that trail.

Dead snake on the trail

After all that ascent, the trail flattens out briefly. We somehow passed right by the Old Growth Redwood without seeing it (hard to see if you're not looking for it, as we didn't notice any sign). We then turned right onto the Crosscut Trail, then right onto the Crossover Trail, which descends (but not steeply). We started seeing more late mountain bikers (probably people getting off work).

Heading onto the Crossover Trail

After a brief snack break at the bottom, we continued on the Gordon Mill Trail toward Skyline Boulevard. It pretty much climbs from here on out. Soon enough we reached the end of our loop (the intersection where we'd taken the Oljon Trail), then took the final 0.3 miles to the parking lot.

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