Wilder Ranch State Park a hidden gem for bikers and hikers

Maybe the “10-mile Bubble Rule” is in full force at Wilder Ranch. Maybe it’s the name and first sighting of a farmhouse and barns that doesn’t exactly conjure up the vision of world-class mountain biking, bluff-top walks and spectacular ocean views — or a park with 7,000 acres that spans from the coastal cliffs to inland ridges.

Regardless, Wilder Ranch State Park might have the best mountain biking of any state park in California. The walks and ocean views are stellar. Yet many outside of 10 miles have not been there, and some haven’t even heard of it.


For those in the Bay Area, two of every three trips for recreation are within 10 miles of home, according to several park studies, hence the “10-Mile Bubble Rule.” The third trip is as apt to be Yosemite, Tahoe or Big Sur as anywhere. For many, that leaves Wilder Ranch off the mental radar.

Wilder Ranch is located on the coast just outside of Santa Cruz, 45 miles south of Half Moon Bay, 73 miles from San Francisco. The weather has been spectacular this week, sunny and pleasant, with a forecast Saturday for clear skies, 75 degrees and light winds.

When you drive in off Highway 1, the feeling you get isn’t exactly an unrepeatable thrill of anticipation. From the parking lot, a main path leads to a Victorian house and the grounds of an old dairy. This historical operation is how the park gets its name.

The old dairy farm is not the end, it turns out, but rather your launching pad.

Mountain bike

The paths lead into the foothills and rise across a series of terraces, climbs and flats that are spaced just right so you can catch your breath. That allows you to rise for sweeping ocean views without feeling like you’re hitting a wall.

To start, glide the short distance down to the Wilder Dairy farmhouse. At the Wilder Dairy, walk your bike through the grounds, the Victorian House and workshops on your left, the horse barn and cow barn on your right. Just beyond is a path that leads through a…

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