Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park has a little bit of everything – views, redwoods, rugged coastline, meadows, and even a historical museum. The park’s close proximity to Santa Cruz means you will not be alone, especially on the weekends. In addition, the trails are open to mountain biking so the bikers far outnumber pedestrians and I didn’t see another runner on my run. That said, the park has 34 miles of official trails and several more miles of unofficial single-track to explore.  Moreover, most of the visitors were within a couple miles of Wilder Ranch historical area and I found solitude on many of the trails in the inland portion of the park.

Wilder Ranch entails two distinct experiences, together constituting quintessential California coastal scenery. The section of the park south of highway 1 features the Ohlone Bluff trail with unique sea cliff terraces and hidden sandy beaches. This 4 mile stretch of coastline is spectacular and very photogenic. The portion north of highway 1 is characterized by rolling meadowy hills with forested ravines. A great map of Wilder Ranch can be found here.

Sandy beaches protected by steep rock terraces along the Ohlone Bluff Trail
Sandy beaches sheltered by rock terraces on the Ohlone Bluff Trail
Typical scene at Wilder Ranch on the Twin Oaks Trail
Typical scene at Wilder Ranch on the Twin Oaks Trail
So inviting!
This beach looks so inviting!

I parked along Empire Grade and entered the park from the high point at the crossing of the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail. I hit a majority of the trails in the park including single tracks on the Old Cabin Trail and Enchanted Loop Trail. I eventually dropped down to 4 mile Beach and the Ohlone Bluff Trail via Baldwin Trail. The coastline was gorgeous and I stopped to take many photos. I refilled my water bottle at the facilities located at the Wilder Ranch parking area and continued back up to the Empire Grade via Wilder Ridge, Twin Oaks, Eucalyptus Trail, and Chinquapin Trail. Total net running time was over 3 hours with around 22 miles covered.

Gray Whale Ranch
Gray Whale Ranch
Meadows and forest
Meadows and forest characteristic of Wilder Ranch
View of Monterey Bay and Santa Lucia Mountains
View of Monterey Bay and Santa Lucia Mountains
Panorama of the Ohlone Bluff Trail
Panorama of the Ohlone Bluff Trail
Ohlone Bluff Trail Views
Ohlone Bluff Trail Views
Sea stack and sandy beach
Sea stack and four mile beach
Sea cliff terraces and sandy coves
Sea cliff terraces and sandy coves
Sand Plant Beach
Sand Plant Beach
Another beatiful beach along the Oholone Bluff Trail
Another beautiful beach along the Oholone Bluff Trail
Sea cave with Wilder Beach and Nature Preserve in the background
Sea cave with Wilder Beach and Nature Preserve in the background
View of the Pacific Ocean from the Baldwin Trail
View of the Pacific Ocean from the Baldwin Trail
Stables at Wilder Ranch
Stables at Wilder Ranch
Enchanted Loop Trail
Enchanted Loop Trail
Woodcutters Trail
Heavily forested Woodcutters Trail

More seascape photos!!

Small sandy cove
Small sandy cove
Rugged coast
Rugged coast
Sea stack
Sea stack

Future areas of exploration include taking the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail the other direction (east) through the UC Santa Cruz lands into Pogonip Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. A good map of Wilder Ranch-Henry Cowell Redwoods Region can be found here.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. kate says:

    did you see your pic in the new UR – on Quad Dipsea page?

  2. Debbie says:

    What time of year is best to go there? When did you take these beautiful pictures?

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