Seagulls on the bluff.
The old Wilder family Victorian home.
Secluded cove and tide pools.
Horses and riders love Wilder.
The restored horse barn.
Arched molding above the horse stalls.
A young climber in the bald cypress tree.
Wilder Ranch State Park (831)426-0505
Two miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1 is Wilder Ranch State Park. It is as much a destination for history lovers as it is for hikers, bicyclists, joggers and equestrians. This 4,500 acre park is one of the most diverse in California. Straddling both sides of the highway, Wilder Ranch affords open ocean views and uncrowded beaches as well as dense redwood forests and meadows. At the center of this beautiful landscape are restored barns and buildings that once belonged to five generations of the Wilder family beginning in 1871.
D.D. Wilder built the original farm and was known for the innovations he introduced to local dairy farming. He replaced his steam wheel (which powered the cream separators used in the process of making butter), with a Pelton water wheel in 1889. By 1890 the ranch workshop, forge, and early electrical generators were all powered by water.
The park hosts tours and living history demonstrations that explore the history of ranchers and farmers on the Central Coast. The site was originally the main rancho for the Santa Cruz Mission. It later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch.
Wilder is an unhurried place, close to the city but rich in wild and natural landscapes. On a sunny day the trails at Wilder are home to joggers, cyclists, and fishermen. The beaches, tide pools and sea caves along the coastline are as much a draw as are the trails winding from sea level to 1,200 ft. on the inland side of the highway. Wilder is a favorite mountain bike destination for cyclists from all over the central coast.
The grounds around the Victorian farm house are a delight. The barns and farm equipment have been preserved. One highlight on the farm is the restored workshop with early drills and tools run by a set of pulleys and belts turned by the Pelton water wheel. The docents at this park often dress in period clothing and give demonstrations on Victorian era farm life.
Wilder Ranch is a favorite place for young parents, grandparents and children. There are picnic grounds behind the barn and chicken yards full of lively hens and roosters. There are also opportunities to see cows and horses. If you go with children, be sure to climb the huge bald cypress tree in front of the Victorian farm house.
Wilder Ranch is known on the central coast for it's old fashioned fourth of July celebration. Whether you dress up in period costume or arrive dressed for a hike, you'll be welcomed to a midday parade, handmade ice cream, a cake walk, a barbecue, demonstrations in blacksmithing and wood stove baking, guided tours and arts and crafts displays, including Victorian boxes, button spinners and corn husk dolls.
Events at Wilder Ranch
To reach the park from the Hinds House head up the Chestnut St. hill and turn left at the first light (Mission St.). Stay on Mission St. for 3 miles or so (outside of town it turns into Route 1) and look for Wilder Ranch on the left. If you are on foot or a bicycle there is a walking and bike path from the edge of town all the way to Wilder Ranch. The 3.4 mile walk from the Hinds House to Wilder will take just over an hour. Wilder Ranch State Park is open 8 a.m. to sunset seven days a week. The Interpretive Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.