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Wilder Ranch is a coastal preserve just a few miles from downtown Santa Cruz featuring dozens of trails and fire roads that are mostly legal for cycling. During my three months in Santa Cruz I found myself exploring Wilder in the early mornings every day before work. I fell in love with the sunrise, the thick coastal fog, the dew covered meadows and the grazing deer.
Wilder became my morning sanctuary and I am grateful for all the time I got to spend there.
I can recall climbing up Old Cabin in the stillness of morning, Niterider on, headlamp on, ascending in the darkness, nothing but the sounds of breathe and tires rolling over soil. Eventually the thick forest giving way to a blooming sunrise, deers grazing to my left, dew covered spider webs blanketing the meadow floor. Life seems infinite during these momements.
There are endless ways to get into Wilder but here are the ones that I come to love :
- Up Bay St and hop onto the Fire Road in UCSC. Check out the sunrise at the top and then climb up Star Wars. Take the Single Track to Pipeline. Follow Pipeline along Chinquapin to the Twin Gates.
- Up the Emma Mccrary Trail to U Con Trail. From the top of U Con take one of the many trails that link up with Pipeline. Roast Pipeline to Twin Gates.
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[su_quote cite="MBOSC" url="http://www.mbosc.org/local-parks/wilder-ranch/"]Wilder Ranch is home to some of Santa Cruz’s most iconic riding. On the coastal side of Highway one, trails wind along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific. On the inland side of the highway, trails climb up rolling grasslands that overlook the ocean, and dip down into verdant redwood timbered drainages. Wilder offers a up miles of fire roads and singletrack. Some singletrack highlights include, Enchanted Loop, Twin Oaks, and Old Cabin.[/su_quote]
Here is a breakdown of the trails I regularly rode in Wilder :
Chinquapin Trail : This is where most people pedal into Wilder via UCSC / Twin Gates.
Enchanted Loop : The first time I rode down the Enchanted Loop I was on my Cyclocross bike. It was pretty radical to say the least. This is arguably the most gorgeous Single Track in Wilder and my personal favorite! Radical descent littered with roots and rocks followed by flowy Single Track and a extremely steep climb out.
Mailboxes : Arguably the most frequented illegal Single Track in Santa Cruz. First time down this I was on my Cyclocross bike and had to walk two steep rock gardens. Worth it for the river crossing at the end!
Fence Line : Another really popular section of Single Track that will take you down to the end of Mailboxes. Make a left at the bottom to navigate a gnarly rock garden and river crossing or head right to head back into Wilder.
Old Cabin : Yet another trail first explored on my Cyclocross bike. I love looping Enchanted and Old Cabin together. Highly recommended. After Old Cabin hop onto Wild Boar and smash down Engelsman to the Bike Path at the bottom.
Engelsman Loop : I love this trail. Perfect for the Cyclocross bike and my go to way to loop back into Santa Cruz.
Eucalyptus Loop : This is a Fire Road that will connect you with various Trail Heads. I tend to avoid this trail unless I am climbing back up Wilder to do some more loops.
Wilder Ridge Loop : This is a great way to climb up Wilder from Highway 1. It seems like a lot of group rides will meet at the bottom.
Baldwin Loop : This is probably the most unused trail in all of Wilder. When I rode it the fog was so thick I could only see 10 or so feet in front of me. The
Woodcutters : A fire road that goes through Wilder via Chinquaphin Trail up to Smith Grade. Theres a lot of hidden single track in the surrounding area if you keep your eyes peeled.
Woodcutters : Fire Road at it’s best. Lots of Single Track out there if you keep your eyes open. Drops you off on Smith Grade.
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So if you ever find yourself in Santa Cruz, wake up before the sun, gear up and pedal towards Wilder. You won't regret it. I promise!