Wilder Ranch SP
The park has 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails winding through coastal terraces and valleys. Several restored buildings once belonging to the Wilder family are preserved. The park has tours and living history demonstrations to help visitors explore the history of early ranchers and farmers along the Central Coast. The site was originally the main rancho supplying Santa Cruz Mission. It later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch. Surrounding grounds include Victorian homes, gardens, and historic adobe.
Location - Directions
The park is north of Santa Cruz, immediately west of Highway One, approximately 1.8 miles past the Western Drive stoplight.
Seasons - Climate - Recommended clothing
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.
Wilder Ranch SP does not all allow dogs.
Wilder Ranch Restoration Plan
Wilder Ranch State Park includes coastal habitat and recreational area with some in agriculture, some cattle grazing and a culture preserve. Approximately 110 acres were identified to be restored to historic habitat conditions and native vegetation. The area had great potential as a model for the restoration of coastal wetlands. It included Wilder Beach, saltmarsh, grassland, and riparian habitats, as well as three agricultural fields. From 1992 to 1994, the Benthic Lab group researched historical land use, and past and present physical and biological conditions of the Wilder Ranch restoration area. They proposed and designed restoration alternatives. The information was presented as a plan which the California Department of Parks and Recreation used to develop and implement the restoration of the park.
The restoration has been extremely successful. Since 1994, the agricultural fields have been returned to wetland and riparian habitats with their native tree, shrub and plant species. Wetland birds, and hawks nest in habitat that formerly was farmland. Red-legged frogs and other wetland animals have moved into the area. The riparian corridor along Wilder Creek has been widened to about 100 feet. Dogwood, alder, cottonwood and willows planted in 1994 have grown at a good rate, with some trees already over twenty feet tall. The adjacent upland restoration also has been successful. With continued monitoring to eradicate pest plant species such as hemlock and thistle, Wilder Ranch will become one of the showcase coastal wetland restoration sites.
Restoration Flyer (PDF)
Benthic Ecology Research Group - Moss Landing Marine Laboratories