Into the Wilder

Coastal hike and bike ride at Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz County

Cool summer breezes, stunning seaside cliffs, and sandy beaches—this 8-mile hike or bike ride at Wilder Ranch is the perfect summertime treat, with a craft brewery bonus for extra refreshment.

From the main parking lot, follow signs for Old Cove Landing as they lead south toward the ocean. This dirt trail is lined with wild radish, mustard, and buckwheat flowers, making it a great spot to look for bumblebees and butterflies.

As the coast swims into view, turn right to follow the trail along the top of the bluffs. Continue past Fern Grotto Beach and keep an eye out for sea birds on the cliffs, including pelicans, cormorants, and herons. Seals can sometimes be spotted basking on the rocks in the water.

Continue along the trail as it turns inland, then turn left onto Ohlone Bluff Trail, which follows the old railway line and winds past fields of Brussels sprouts and berries. As the path re-emerges at the coast, take a moment to soak up the view. This dramatic coastline has photo opportunities at every turn, from jagged cliffs to caves carved out by millennia of crashing waves.

At Strawberry Beach, turn left onto the grassy path that leads down to the sand. This beach is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or a dip in the waves. At low tide, hikers can explore the small cave on the right side of the beach or scramble onto the seaside rocks. When you’ve had your fill, retrace the route back to the parking lot.

BONUS: For a post-hike pint, head back toward Santa Cruz to visit Humble Sea Brewing Co. This quirky brewery offers flights of their beer selection, from crisp blondes to sweet stouts, alongside a rotating lineup of food trucks. A portion of their proceeds goes toward protecting the oceans.

Wilder Ranch State Park is located at 1401 Coast Rd. in Santa Cruz. From CA-17, exit onto CA-1 North. After 4.4 miles, turn left into the parking lot. A $10 day-use fee will be collected at the gate. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Bikes welcome. No dogs. Humble Sea Brewing Co. is located at 820 Swift St. in Santa Cruz.

Story and photos by Heather Werner,

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