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Wilder Ranch Trails

Wilder Ranch State Park

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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Wilder Ranch Trails

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  • Enjoying the views and singletrack along the Twin Oaks Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Long Meadow Trail is wide open with stellar views over Monterey Bay.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Forest meets grassland along the Long Meadow Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Chinquapin Trail connects the Eucalyptus Loop with Empire Grade/Twin Gates.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • A nice overlook and picnic tables await you at the remains of a Eucalyptus Grove at the top of the Eucalyptus Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Old rancho ruins from the formerly working Wilder Ranch.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Redwood sorrel creates a carpet of green along the Old Cabin Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Old Cabin Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Bombing down the singletrack along Old Cabin Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Old Cabin Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Taking a breather at the Eucalyptus Loop-Enchanted Loop junction.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Beautiful scenery along the Enchanted Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Large redwoods along the Enchanted Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • The Enchanted Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • A few roots and drops keep you on your toes along the Enchanted Loop. - Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Climbing out of the Enchanted Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Dropping down toward the Pacific on the Wilder Ridge Loop.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Views along the Twin Oaks Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • A rocky and scenic section of the Zane Gray Cutoff Trail.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Wilder Ranch offers an incredible diversity of nature, from oak-covered grasslands to redwood covered gulches to coastal bluffs and beaches.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Acacia bloom along the bike path connecting Wilder Ranch to Santa Cruz.- Wilder Ranch Trails
  • Leaves of three let it be. Western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum).- Wilder Ranch Trails
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Diversity of ride options. Ocean views. Redwood Ravines.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
925.00 ft (281.94 m)
Route Characteristics: Mountain biking: 
Trail
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Park entrance fee
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Trail difficulty: 
Blue
Total Distance: 
15.00 mi (24.14 km)
Total elevation gain: 
1,700.00 ft (518.16 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
60.00 ft (18.29 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Team

The hills and mountains surrounding Santa Cruz provide a beautiful backdrop for a town well known for it's beaches and coastline, but that's not all that the area's topographic relief affords. The Santa Cruz area has a strong reputation for surfing, and in terms of outdoor pastimes mountain biking could be considered Santa Cruz's terra firma counterpart. The hills around Santa Cruz are home to an impressive range of riding environments, trail networks and options ranging from beginner to expert. From the technical and flowy descents found at Soquel Demonstration Forest to the redwood forests and riverside trails of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the ocean vistas and open riding found at Wilder Ranch, there are no shortage of unique mountain biking in the northern bend of coast on Monterey Bay. 

Arguably one of the Santa Cruz's best mountain biking locales for beginner and intermediate riders, or for those simply interested in taking in the spectacular coastal scenery, can be found among the trails at Wilder Ranch State Park. Located 2 miles north and easily ridable from town, the park consists of 7,000 acres of coastal bluffs, oak-grassland and redwood-covered gulches extending from the Pacific Ocean nearly 5 miles upslope towards Ben Lomond Mountain. Lying between the ocean and the park's northern boundary at Empire Grade road (elevation 1,100 feet), are 35 miles of scenic and fun trails to explore.

Wilder Ranch is exceptionally mountain biker-friendly for a state park in that 100% of park trails are multi-use, open to both biking and hiking (most of the  trails are also open to horseback riding). There is a fairly even mix between singletrack and dirt road and doubletrack, with a handful of trails providing a majority of the former. One of the highlights of riding at Wilder Ranch is the diversity of natural settings and views you'll experience: One minute you'll be flying down an open meadow overlooking the blue waters of Monterey Bay, and the next you'll be dropping into a fern-filled ravine under the canopy of a redwood forest. Ride lenths can vary from 5 to 20-plus miles depending on how you choose to combine trails within the park. For access, many ride from town north along the bike path paralleling Highway 1, but you can also drive and park within the park's paid parking area near the old ranch buildings or near the park entrance along the highway. There is a highway underpass that connects the bike path and ocean side of the park to the majority of trails on the east side of the highway. Another option is to arrange a shuttle that drops you off at the top of the park at a spot called Twin Gates off Empire Grade. This is near the highest point in Wilder Ranch State Park, and it cuts out a significant portion of climbing if you will be entering from the Highway 1 side.

Below are some suggested riding and trail options within Wilder Ranch State Park. Make sure to pick up a park brochure and download a map beforehand for reference on the trail. The park is large and can be somewhat confusing for first-timers if you are unfamiliar with the trail network.

  • Ohlone Bluff Trail: Approximately 4.5 miles; relatively flat; primarily follws the coastal bluffs on the oceanside of Highway 1 on dirt road/doubletrack. Great ocean views and beach access.
  • Engleman's Loop > Wild Boar Trail > Old Cabin Trail > Eucalyptus Loop > Enchanted Loop > Wilder Ridge Loop > Twin Oaks Trail > WIlder Ridge Loop: Approximately 12 miles. Best of Wilder Ranch singletrack and redwood ravines. Intermediate level and above. Lots of climbing.
  • Shuttle Ride: Twin Gates > Chinquapin Trail > Long Meadow Trail > Wild Boar Trail > Old Cabin Trail > Eucalyptus Loop > Wilder Ridge Loop > Zane Gray Cutoff Trail > Wilder Ridge Loop. Approximately 15 miles. Scenic ocean views. Lots of singletrack. Cuts out significant climbing. Intermediate level and above.
  • Enchanted Loop is arguably the best section of singletrack in Wilder Ranch when ridden clockwise. There are some larger roots and drops at the beginning of descent to be aware of. The loop itself is approximately 2 miles in length and must be combined with other trails to access. Quickest access is to park near Four Mile Beach and ride the Baldwin Loop up to Enchanted Loop. 

Note: Wilder Ranch is a haven for poison oak, which can grow rampantly on the sides of some trails. Be careful when you get off your bike. Remember, leaves of three, let it be.

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