A Hidden Tafoni Formation & Neil Young’s “Broken Arrow Ranch”


I was looking, once again, for an interesting new place to explore in Silicon Valley and still get home by late afternoon. One thing high on my “to do” list was to search for a relatively unknown tafoni formation, that was whispered to me in hushed tones at the same time as the recently visited plane crash site (https://alpharoaming.com/2014/02/11/plane-crash-site/)

WHAT’S A TAFONI, you ask? Well, it’s a honeycombed chunk of limestone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tafoni There’s a well-known one in the nearby El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve. It’s called “Sandstone Formation” on the upper part of the map http://www.openspace.org/preserves/maps/pr_ecdm.pdf and mentioned on the lower part of park’s page: http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_ecdm.asp

Not only was this “secret” tafoni supposed to be better than the known one, it was also very close to some “dead-end downhill middle-of-nowhere” roads I had been meaning to try on the bicycle for a mostly car-free hillclimb. http://www.chainreaction.com/deadendroads.htm


Two of these roads are on one side of El Corte de Madera, and one is on the other side. All of them just “uphill” to the east of Neil Young’s 1000+ acre “Broken Arrow Ranch”…and golly gee there’s a cool 5 mile trail through the park’s wonderful redwood forest connecting one to the other. Off I went!

(Some obscure historical info about Neil’s ranch on the website for “The Land”, which was a nearby “hippie commune” that included Joan Baez, but that’s a story for another time… http://theland.wikispaces.com/Star+Hill)

Neil is originally from Canada, and sang at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, though he’s lived here for 40+ years. He’s also appreciated locally for his work with the Bridge School and the annual fundraising concert in nearby Mountain View. http://bridgeschool.org/concert/ Thank you, Neil!

I parked up on Skyline Blvd and took Swett Road as a short connector to Star Hill Road. I had been here before, but never saw a clear view all the way to the Pillar Point Radar Station, just north of Half Moon Bay.


From Swett Road I descended down, down, down, past a relatively large, burned-out, redwood.


Soon I approached the “secret” location. There it was!


It may not look like much, but it was about 20 feet high on the uphill side, and a very steep drop of about 100 feet on the other side of this hidden spire.

The opposite side had the impressive weathered limestone formations that tafoni fans look for!


Later on my journey, I came to the end of Native Sons Road, where it becomes the private property of the “Native Sons of the Golden West” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Sons_of_the_Golden_West (One of Neil Young’s early albums was named “Native Son”, inspired by this road near his land.)


A funky tree at the private Durham Road turnoff.


Two steep dead-end hillclimbs done (in the “granny gear”), now for 5 miles of damp, humid, off-road redwood goodness!


…and the obligatory banana slug, which loves the damp conditions in the redwood forest:


…and then DOOOWWWNN again to the end of Bear Gulch Road, 5 miles later, on the other side of El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve. This road is the active entrance to Neil Young’s 1000+ acres, as was told to me by someone whose wife used to work for him.


I’ve heard from another active hiker / cyclist that he’s heard Neil jamming in his studio from the park area. That would be quite something!

18.8 mile GPX track: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2678563 (Might have to then click on “map” if it doesn’t appear right away)

The end!
– secret tafoni
– 19 miles of quiet pavement and redwood forest
– 3 large hillclimbs, totalling 4000 vertical feet
– a peek over 3 dead-end gates, which are closed to the public


About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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7 Responses to A Hidden Tafoni Formation & Neil Young’s “Broken Arrow Ranch”

  1. Pingback: Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (Stanford University) | AlphaRoaming

  2. Pingback: Cycling Woodside to Half Moon Bay (Kings Mountain Rd, Tunitas Creek Rd) | AlphaRoaming

  3. Pingback: A Chill in the Air: White Sierra & El Corte de Madera | AlphaRoaming

  4. Michael wienholz says:

    Tunitus creek lean to this camp was on south side half way up towards skyline.you went thru a metal gate and follow the creek a while then it opened up and it was a great place.school kids built it about 60years ago Mr young I knew cousin bill in the 70s great wrench I loved the packard woodie wagon

  5. Ray Hosler says:

    Lots to see up in those hills. I ran into a limestone formation in Corte de Madera back in the 80s. https://wp.me/ariSC-25i

  6. SM says:

    I was so lucky to have lunch and build a chicken coup for Neil Young in the 70`s.
    I knew Neil`s Ranch Manager`s son Craig Hash. I got a grand tour of the Ranch.

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