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Wild over Wilder Ranch State Park

Location : Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz, CA

Parking : $10 (within the State Park) or park off Hwy 1 for free.

Trail type : One Way

Trail Length : 6.8 miles

Elevation Gain : 177ft

Difficulty : Easy

Trails traversed : Old Cove Landing Trail > Ohlone Bluff Trail

Pets Allowed ? No

Post Hike Grub suggestion : Upper Crust Pizza and Pasta, Santa Cruz.

This spectacular trail needs a bit of planning. Since the trail is almost 7 miles long, it will help if you have two cars, so that one of you can park one car at the trailhead at the entrance of Wilder Ranch State Park and the other can park another car 3 miles north at the end of the trail, at Four Mile Beach parking lot. So loop in some friends to do this hike with you.

The trail itself is pretty flat and easy and a nice place to ride your bike. Restrooms with flush toilets are available at the State Park, before you embark on your hike. Start off on the Old Cove Landing trail close to the restrooms, heading north-west. The views of the bluffs and the Pacific Ocean are beautiful at every turn.

Have you ever seen waves make shadows???

You will pass a number of almost deserted beaches and a couple of cliffs which a number of seals and pelicans call home. One of the beaches that is worth taking a deviation is Fern Grotto Beach. The place gets its name from a sea cave located at the back of the beach, covered with ferns, with water trickling down the face of the cave. It looks and feels like a small tropical oasis right on the beach.

Water dripping down from the ferns after the recent rains.

Fern Grotto sea cave

Continue walking down the trail which turns inward for a mile or so towards Highway 1 and along an old and forgotten railway track. This railway track keeps appearing at different portions of the trail. Old Cove Landing Trail soon becomes Ohlone Bluff Trail which runs along coastal farms growing artichokes and brussels sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts growing in abundance along the trail

Okey, Dokey, artichokey!

Ohlone Bluff Trail takes you past old farmhouses surrounded with ancient farming tools, until the trail finally winds around near Four Mile Beach and takes you to the Four Mile Beach parking lot, where you would have your second car parked.

The hike was an amazing experience from end to end and timing it to end at sunset made the views even more spectacular. The trail is fully exposed but the cool breeze from the ocean will compensate for the missing shade.

With magnificent ocean views and a variety of birds on one side and farm vegetation on the other, this is one of the most unique hikes in the Bay Area. Post-hike, we stopped at Upper Crust Pizza and Pasta, which is just a couple of miles from the trailhead on Highway 1.

Check out this awesome gem of a hike, if havent already, and leave me a comment on what you thought of it.

Here are a few more pictures from our time at Wilder Ranch State park.

1 Comment

Lakshmi Masoor Ramesh
Lakshmi Masoor Ramesh
Nov 18, 2021

A good description of the hike trail and appreciate the parking tips that would ease the experience. Loved the photographs that accompanied the writeup. Would love to check it out on our next visit to the bay area.

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