Wilder Ranch State Park Beaches
About two miles west of Santa Cruz lies a large dairy farm that in 1974 was purchased by California State Parks to preserve the land and the farm for future generations to enjoy. The property has six excellent beaches and over 30 miles of trails and old roads to explore. For the residents of Santa Cruz this is a huge source of outdoor recreation. For those of us visiting Santa Cruz County it’s a park that shouldn’t be missed.
From the main parking area a short trail leads to the Cultural Preserve Area where visitors can see the various dairy buildings including barns, sheds, old farm houses, and a granary. Next up is the Old Cove Landing Trail which also begins at the main parking lot. This trail makes a loop that visits Wilder Beach (a beautiful beach that is closed to the public), Fern Grotto Beach, and Sand Plant Beach. This is a picturesque route that follows an irregular bluff with many rocks and coves below.
The park has three other beaches to visit, but they have separate parking areas farther west on Highway 1. Four Mile Beach is the largest and easiest to access. Three Mile Beach and Strawberry Beach are more remote, but worth the effort required to hike out to them.
Most of the park is inland from the highway and is crisscrossed with trails and old farm roads that are open to many uses including mountain biking, horseback riding, and, of course, hiking. The best-known trailhead is at the main parking lot, but another trail begins across from the parking lot for Four Mile Beach.
All services are available nearby in beautiful Western Santa Cruz.