This particular walk will give you just a taste of what Wilder Ranch has to offer. The park has 34 miles of hiking, biking and... more » equestrian trails winding through 4000 acres of coastal terraces, valleys, and inland canyons. Wilder Ranch is an ongoing restoration project, and a very successful one.
The walk focuses on the lower portions of the park, HWY 1 to the coastal bluffs, beaches, and restored ranch buildings. It's easily done in half a day and shouldn't wear out kids...especially when they visit the beaches and fern cave. The ranch area is especially fascinating when costumed docents are available for living history demonstrations.
Wilder Ranch State Park contains a mix of coastal habitats intermixed with active agriculture, cattle grazing, and cultural preserve. Since 1994, agricultural fields have been returned to wetland and riparian habitats with their native tree, shrub and plant species that include: dogwood, alder, cottonwood. Wetland bird species, particularly the snowy plover, have returned to nest. Red-legged frogs and other wetland animals have returned to the area as well. The uplands restoration effort has been highly successful with continued efforts to eradicate pest plant species including hemlock and thistle. Overall, Wilder Ranch has become a showcase of coastal wetland restoration.
Like brussels sprouts? One source indicated about 12% of the U.S. production is grown in the state park's agricultural preserve. If it's the growing season when you visit, you'll be walking past it all.
In addition to the guided historic walks, the park boasts Old Landing Cove Trail, a bluff-top path that, as its name suggests, leads to a historic cove. From the 1850s to the 1890s, schooners dropped anchor in this cove to load lumber. Observant hikers can spot iron rings, which supported landing chutes, and are still embedded in the cliffs.
Originally established by Mission Santa Cruz in 1791 as the Rancho del Matadero, the site was originally the main rancho supplying Santa Cruz Mission in early California. Later, the Wilders acquired the property and established an innovative dairy operation. Several restored buildings once belonging to the Wilder family are preserved and the surrounding grounds include Victorian homes, barns, ranch workshops, gardens, and historic adobe. Thanks in large part to an active volunteer community, the park has tours and living history demonstrations to help visitors explore the history of early ranchers and farmers along the Central Coast. less «