Grand Loop in Wilder Ranch
13.0 miles     1200 ft
18 Jul 2010

A long loop that goes through Wilder Ranch trails on both sides of Highway 1. Meandering through shaded trails in forests, grasslands with panoramic valley views, beach walks to interesting stone formations and bluff trails with expansive views of the Pacific.

Location: Wilder Ranch State Park

Elevation Profile
Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Trail Map: Decent qualit map. No mileage information for trail sections.

» PeasePress Map: Trails of Santa Cruz: Excellent quality map showing various parks in the Santa Cruz area.


This hike is a tad long but covers trails on both sides of Highway 1. It goes through varied terrain: forests with shaded trails, grasslands with panoramic valley views, sandy beaches and bluff trails with expansive views of the Pacific. → unnamed trail to 4-Mile Beach (~ 0.3 miles) → Ohlone Bluff Trail (3.5 miles) → Old Cove Landing Trail (1.5 miles) — paved road and unnamed trail to reach parking lot on Highway 1 (about 0.4 miles). Add about 1 mile for detours to a couple of beaches and walking around on sand.

Northern Section of Wilder Ranch: See the Inset Map in the lower left corner of Virtual Parks Trail Map for a detailed map of the starting point. From the parking lot on Highway 1, walk towards the tunnel and follow an unnamed trail (0.4 miles) → Engelsmann Loop (1.2 miles) → Wild Boar Trail (0.4 miles) → Old Cabin Trail (0.7 miles) → Eucalyptus Trail (1.0 miles) → Enchanted Loop (0.7 miles) → Baldwin Loop (1.5 miles) to Highway 1, opposite the parking lot for Four Mile Beach. There is no sign saying 'Four Mile Beach' here. In July 2010, signs at intersections along Enchanted Loop and Baldwin Loop were missing, so we had to guess where to go.

Southern Section of Wilder Beach:

1) To Ohlone Bluff Trail: From the Four Mile Beach parking lot on Highway 1, walk about 0.3 miles towards the Pacific Ocean to reach a beach. If you walk south along the beach, there are interesting rock formations to explore. Waves come crashing against these rocks, allowing you to shoot nice photographs. However, to hop onto the bluff trail, you would have to go back and look for a trail that takes you to the top of the cliffs adjoining the coastline.

2) Beaches along Ohlone Bluff Trail: Ohlone Bluff Trail meanders next to the Pacific, all the way to Old Cove Landing Trail that takes you back to Park HQ. Several beaches are accessible from the trail: Three-Mile Beach, Strawberry Beach and Sand Plant Beach. Consult Virtual Parks Trail Map for their locations. Some of these beaches require careful scrambling going down or climbing up.

3) Park HQ to Tunnel: For this section of the route, see the Inset Map on the bottom right of Virtual Parks Trail Map. From the Park HQ onwards, follow Coast Road, then turn left onto a road leading you to Interpretive Center / Cultural Preserve, which showcases ecological information related to Wilder Ranch. Walking past this building, you will see, you will come across some other buildings and a tunnel going under Highway 1. The end point of this hike is a parking lot on Highway 1, adjacent to the tunnel.


Location: 1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz, CA . No street address. Parking area is visible in Google Maps if you zoom in sufficiently.

Directions: Please study Google Maps carefully. There is a large parking lot on the shoulder of Highway 1 in between the two points where Coast Rd intersects Highway 1. Adjacent to this parking lot is a "tunnel" going below Highway 1. The tunnel is visible in Google Map.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: None (last visited: August 2011)

Capacity: About 20 cars may be parked here.

Latitude: 36.962135     Longitude: -122.084944

Shaded Trails

Many trails like Woodcutters Trail, Wild Boar Trail and Old Cabin Trail are forested.

Unshaded Trails

Many trails are dirt roads (popular among bikers) or single track trails in the open. On our last trip, we saw a bobcat.

Ocean Views

Ohlone Bluff Trail offers great coastal views. You may descend down to beaches en route and climb back up.

© Copyright 2008—2020, Gurmeet Manku.