Sandstone formations and redwoods
This hike winds its way through redwood groves and deep forest as it traverses much of El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. California redwoods were heavily harvested in this area from the middle of the 19th Century until they were almost gone. However, these trees have the ability to sprout towers from extant roots after the main part of the tree has been cut off. Consequently, many areas that have seen extensive redwood harvesting are now covered in deep forest. The redwoods exist in random clumps within a mixture of bay laurels, tanoaks, and Douglas firs. This area features heavy undergrowth that includes a very substantial amount of poison oak. The trails are in pretty good shape, and are mostly old roads with dirt surfaces.
Walk north along Highway 35 (Skyline Blvd) about 400 yards to the trailhead on the west side of the road. Take the El Corte de Madera Creek trail to the right from the big trail junction. The trail immediately begins descending to the right (north) side of the creek through a heavy forest of Douglas firs, redwoods, and tanoaks. You lose about 300 vertical feet overall by the time the Tafoni Trail branches off to the left. Take the Tafoni Trail 0.8 miles to its junction with the trail to the tafoni sandstone formation. The formation is 0.2 mile north of the Tafoni Trail, and is well worth a visit.
Evidently sand accumulated into sandstone at the bottom of a prehistoric sea before being lifted into the Santa Cruz Mountains due to the power of plate tectonics. Dead animal shells have disintegrated into calcium and its interaction with the surface of the sandstone has produced the interesting tafoni indentations in the rock.
Head back to the Tafoni Trail and take it a short bit to the Fir Trail. Go right on the Fir Trail for 1/4 mile to the turnoff to the semi-inspiring vista. It's worth checking out, but don't expect much. The Fir Trail gets steep in portions in this area. Keep taking it for about 3/4 of a mile down to its junction with the Methuselah Trail.
The Fir Trail traveled down the canyon high above Methuselah Creek, but the Methuselah Creek Trail winds its way up the canyon next to the creek until it connects with the Manzanita Trail and a connector back to the Fir Trail. Take the connector to the left back to the Fir Trail, go right at the Tafoni Trail and enjoy a mellow trip back to the trailhead in the deep forest.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.