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,

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Photo of the East Brother Light Station in the San Francisco Bay Area

    Oh, Brother!

    Spending the night on a tiny island in the Bay? Intriguing. Spending the night in a lighthouse perched on that island? Sound the foghorn! East Brother Light Station Bed & Breakfast sits on a small patch of land in the strait that separates San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

  2. Mill About Lakeside

    Bucks Lake Recreation Area near Quincy in Plumas County has plenty of beautiful hiking trails. For an easy hike with beautiful spots for sunning, swimming, and lounging on sand beaches or giant rock slabs, do the Mill Creek Trail.

  3. Camping at Chewing Gum Lake Emigrant Wilderness

    High Sierra Lake Hop

    Situated just north of Yosemite is a High Sierra wonderland that gets a fraction of the crowds and is a fantastic destination for backpacking. The Emigrant Wilderness is 113,000 acres of granite ridges, wildflower-strewn meadows, and cobalt lakes.

  4. The Secret Big Blue

    Set at 4,500 feet, surrounded by 52 miles of shoreline, and with sparkling sapphire hue, Lake Almanor is the other big blue. The secret one. This huge lake—idyllic in spring through fall for all kinds of water adventures—is a gem of Plumas County where you can relax without crowds.


Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Hot As (Bumpass) Hell

    So you like going to all the hot spots when you visit places? Well, in Lassen Volcanic National Park there’s a place so hot it gets downright steamy. Bumpass Hell is the largest hydrothermal area in the park, with sputtering mud pots, sulfur vents, and boiling pools. It’s California’s Yellowstone.

  2. Bucks Up!

    Come on in, the water is beautiful. Whether you like swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddling, or heading out on a bigger boat, Bucks Lake is a high mountain haven that’s easy to access, blissfully uncrowded, and surrounded by sandy beaches, picnic areas, pines, and aspens.

  3. Starcrossed Stairway?

    Built into the hillside next to the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Heights delights with historic homes, steep and narrow (mostly carless) streets, and enchanting city views. Best of all, it features a network of walkways and staircases that makes it super fun to wander and explore.

  4. Lunch at the Lakes

    Pack your own picnic and head for a lakeside lunch at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Then take your pick from a lovely trio of lakes accessed from the same trailhead. Follow it all up with a visit to Manzanita Lake on the other side of the park.