Remote Rancho Corral de Tierra
ElevationAscent: 1,868' 569 m
Descent: -1,906' -581 m
High: 1,787' 545 m
Low: 117' 36 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 33% (18°)
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“Run the high, remote reaches of Rancho Corral de Tierra with continuous panoramic views and lots of wildflowers.”— Lee Watts
From the gate, go south, away from the road and between the stables. Shortly past the stables is another gate that blocks access to an agricultural area. About 25 yards above this, just as the trail switches back south, there is a narrow trail that forks off to the north and climbs the ridge above the stables. About 0.5 miles from the start, at the high point of the Farmers Daughter Trail, you come to the junction with the Spine Trail. The Spine Trail is marked with a sign, but it is about 10 feet up in a tree and not easy to see.
The Spine Trail runs along the top of the ridge that separates the San Vicente and Denniston Creek valleys. Although there are a few downhill spots, the trail mostly just climbs up the ridge to Scarper Road. These climbs increase from gentle at first, to moderately steep in the middle, to quite steep over the last part. The trail is sunny and open, with views in all directions, including Montara Mountain, the canyons on both sides, and the ocean from Ano Nuevo to Moss Beach. Tom Stienstra describes the rocks just below the junction as one of his favorite places, saying "It can feel like you have walked through an escape hatch to a world of peace that you can always count on."
Turn right on Scarper Road. This wild, remote trail was originally created to maintain the power lines that run just outside of, and below, the crest of Crystal Springs Watershed. However, some of the parts are so steep and rough that it is hard to image how even a jeep could traverse it. The next 1.2 mile section consists of dropping steeply down and climbing out of one gully after another. If you are tired or low on water, this is the place to turn back. After you have crossed most of this section, you don't want to decide that you can't make it and have run back over it to get down. Following this section, the trail climbs to a high point at about 1,530 feet and then makes a small drop to the junction with Deer Creek Road.
The 0.735 mile climb from the junction to the cell tower on Peak 1790 is well worth the effort. On a clear day, you can see the Pacific from Ano Nuevo to the Farallon Islands and Point Reyes, as well as portions of the San Francisco Bay, Oakland, and the highest towers of San Francisco.
Return back to the junction and run down Deer Creek Road (labeled as El Granada Road on some maps). This wide road runs along the ridge that separates Denniston Creek from Lock Creek. As always on this trek, there are great wildflower displays and panoramic views of the nearby mountains and up and down the coast. After about 0.85 miles you'll see a trail veering off to the right that makes a small climb to a viewpoint. From the top you drop, steeply at first, down the Clipper Ridge Trail for about two thirds of a mile to its junction with the French Trail.
The French Trail is the path straight in front of you, but I recommend turning left and taking the trail straight down to the parking area at the end of Coral Reef Avenue. This trail, although very steep, gives you great views of Pillar Point, Pillar Point Harbor and down the coast towards Ano Neuvo.
Coral Reef Avenue is a good place to park a second car that would take you back to the parking spots at the beginning of Ember Ranch Road. Otherwise, you would need get back by running about 1.8 miles down Coral Reef and up the Coast Highway.
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