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Hike the high, remote reaches of Rancho Corral de Tierra with continuous panoramic views and lots of wildflowers.

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Point to Point

1,787' 545 m


117' 36 m


1,868' 569 m


1,906' 581 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (18°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Wildflowers


This route combines the best of the high, remote trails in Rancho Corral de Tierra, some of which have only recently been opened to the public. The route would be at its best on a clear day in late spring when the wildflowers are in full bloom. This is a strenuous hike, only for those in good shape. There is a 1.2 mile section of Scarper Road that consists of dropping steeply and climbing out of one gully after another. There is no water and very little shade anywhere along the route. Unless you have two cars, getting back to the starting point requires an easy, 1.5 mile hike on the coast highway.

Need to Know

Scarper Road and the trail to the cell tower run just outside of the fences surrounding the Crystal Springs Watershed. Do not give in to temptation and cross the fence.


The trail starts at the gate to the Ember Ridge Equestrian Center; however, it is probably best to park about on Ethedore Street at the beginning of Ember Ranch Road. From there it is an easy 0.7 mile hike to the start of the trail. The notes for the Farmers Daughter Trail describe parking issues in more detail.

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 hike 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 hike 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 hiking about 1.8 miles down Coral Reef and up the Coast Highway.

Flora & Fauna

In the spring and late summer, a wide variety of chaparral wildflowers grow along the trail, and in many places the road itself is beautifully covered with flowering grasses. There are deer, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions in the area, but they are rarely seen. I have seen a lot of hoof prints and even a full deer skeleton on Scarper Road.


Shared By:

Lee Watts

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  3.5 from 4 votes
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Pillar Point Harbor from Clipper Ridge Trail
Jan 2, 2018 near El Granada, CA
Sweeping panorama from near the cell tower, left to right: Pt. Reyes, Moss Beach, Tamalpais, Daly City, Sutro Tower, Sales Force building, South San Francisco, Oakland.
Feb 22, 2019 near Montara, CA
You can see Mavericks, Pillar Point, the Half Moon Bay Airport and the Marina from the boundary of the preserve.
Oct 8, 2018 near El Granada, CA
Spine Trail is on the ridge that goes from the left to the Eucalyptus trees in the center. Pillar Point and harbor in the distance and San Vicente Farms in the center
Mar 3, 2019 near Montara, CA
The trail descends steeply along the ridgeline.
Oct 8, 2018 near El Granada, CA
Pampas grass grows tall on either side of the trail, creating a narrow corridor for you to navigate.
Oct 8, 2018 near El Granada, CA



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Aug 30, 2022
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