Wilder Ranch State Park

Latest News

Backcountry trails are open! • The ParkStore and Visitor Center also are closed.


The park is open!!
Flash flooding at Wilder Ranch State Park damaged portions of the park’s historic dairy ranch in mid-Jaunary. The Visitor Center and ParkStore building was severely flooded, with water approximately 3 feet deep damaging displays and merchandise. The building is closed until further notice. The Cow Barn was inundated with water and sediment, leaving a 2-inch-thick layer of mud on the floor and covering the cows’ grazing area in silt. There also was water intrusion into the bunkhouse and stables.
Your help is needed to support the short-term response and long-term recovery efforts. Please add a comment that the gift is for “Wilder Ranch.

Wilder Ranch State Park covers approximately 7,000 acres, with 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails winding through coastal terraces and valleys. Several buildings once belonging to the Wilder family have been restored. Explore the history of early ranchers and farmers along the Central Coast through tours and living history demonstrations.

The site was originally the main rancho supplying Santa Cruz Mission, and later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch. The grounds include Victorian homes, barns, shops, gardens and a historic adobe. Major wetlands restoration projects have attracted some of the original flora and fauna back to the area.

Learn more in the California State Parks brochure: English | Spanish.

Operating Hours

Day-Use Area 8 a.m. to Sunset


From Santa Cruz, go north on Highway 1 about 2 miles past Western Drive and turn left.

By Bus: Take Santa Cruz METRO route 20 or 69A.

Things to do


A 35-mile network of multi-use trails crosses the park. Bicycles, please obey 15 mph speed limit; stop when approaching a horseback rider; walk bicycles through ranch complex and be respectful of hikers.

Interpretive Programs

The Cultural Preserve area — a rodeo arena, ranch buildings, and three restored workshops run by water power — has early farm implements and tools. Docents at Wilder Ranch often dress in period clothing for interpretive tours and living history demonstrations. Check the calendar for program topics and times.

Beach Area

Wilder Ranch has several pocket beaches, some of which are popular surf breaks.

Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is closed.

A flash flood at Wilder Ranch State Park in January 2024 significantly damaged the park’s historic dairy ranch.

Four inches of rain fell overnight on January 21, causing Wilder Creek to catastrophically overflow its banks, inundating the Visitor Center and ParkStore, historic Cow Barn and washing away ranch fencing. The Visitor Center and ParkStore are closed pending cleanup and rebuilding. Shop online.

Through our unique position as operating partners with California State Parks, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks has established the Wilder Ranch Recovery Fund. The fund will provide short-term support, followed by investments in long-term recovery work to ensure public access, historical preservation and environmental protection at Wilder Ranch State Park. Donate today.


The ParkStore is closed. Shop online! 

The Visitor Center and ParkStore are temporarily closed. A flash flood at Wilder Ranch in January 2024 significantly damaged the park’s historic dairy ranch.

The Wilder Ranch ParkStore Online sells an assortment of farm-related merchandise, as well as historical toys and books that celebrate the park’s history as a Victorian-era dairy farm. It also carries field guides and merchandise related to the incredible diversity of wildlife a visitor might see while hiking and biking in the park, including birds, mountain lions, bobcats, sea life and wildflowers. The store offers a variety of apparel and souvenirs featuring Michael Schwab’s iconic Wilder Ranch image. We also carry apparel and stickers featuring the historic Wilder Ranch cattle brand.

Fees and Passes

Parking is $10 and supports the park. Credit card payments are encouraged. Annual State Parks passes also are available to purchase at the entrance kiosk.

New! An automated pay machine has been added at the entrance to accept day-use payment by credit/debit card or cash (exact change only) when the kiosk isn’t open.


  • Restrooms
  • Picnic areas
  • Accessibility: The cultural preserve and the Old Cove Landing Trail are ADA-accessible. Call the Interpretive Center at 831-426-0505 for current information on tour accessibility and parking, or learn more in the Hilltromper Wheelchair-Friendly Trails Guide.
  • Interpretive programs
  • Horse camp


The campground is open!

There are six first-come, first-served sites for visitors with horses. For access to the horse camp, call 831-423-9703. There is no other camping offered at the park.

Field Trips

This is a Kids2Parks Participating Park!  

Kids2Parks is an innovative park-equity program to bring students from Title 1 schools to State Park field trips. The program, a partnership between California State Parks and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, increases the number of students who have visited a state park or beach by reducing barriers to access. The program offers transportation funding for field trips to all Title 1 schools in Santa Cruz County and select Title 1 schools in San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Learn more. 


Volunteers give heart and soul to the “Life on the Ranch” and other activities that make Wilder Ranch State Park such a fun, interesting, hands-on place to visit. Volunteer docents help with school group programs, present living history demonstrations, put on events like the annual Harvest Festival, help care for farm animals, lead hikes and building tours and host the visitor center. Wilder Ranch is especially seeking volunteers to help on weekdays with its “Ranch Kids Day” program, where school-children experience local history as they visit a host of hands-on stations led by docents.


Wilder Ranch State Park is in the unceded homelands of the Awaswas-speaking Ohlone Tribe known as the Uypi, who stewarded these lands since time immemorial. Centuries of colonial violence led to the removal and displacement of the Uypi. Today, their descendants continue their stewardship and presence here, in partnership with State Parks.

Native Ohlone people made the region their homeland for millennia, and evidence shows they had villages at Wilder Ranch. From 1791 to 1835 the site was the main rancho supplying Mission Santa Cruz. In the 1830s the land, known as Rancho del Refugio, was granted to three daughters of Joaquin Castro, including Maria Candida Castro and her husband Jose Antonio Bolcoff, a Russian sailor who jumped ship to become a naturalized Mexican citizen. Bolcoff built two adobes (one of which remains today).

In 1854 Moses Meder acquired a large portion of the rancho, constructing a home, which is now the front portion of the old farmhouse known as the Meder House. He expanded dairy and farming, building a creamery, dairy barn and other buildings. In 1871 Levi K. Baldwin and Deloss D. Wilder purchased 4,160 acres of the former rancho and built a new creamery. Their partnership lasted until 1885 when the Wilder family obtained the lower lands on Meder Creek. The Wilder Family worked the land for five generations and nearly a century, building the Victorian farm house in 1897 and employing such innovations as harnessing water power to drive their equipment and the first electric lighting system in the county.

The Wilder Family ran the ranch until 1969 when property taxes exceeded farm income. In the 1970s, the land was proposed for a development of up to 10,000 homes. Local residents formed Operation Wilder to oppose the plan and county citizens voted to protect the open space. After continued advocacy, the State allocated $6 million for the property and in 1974 State Parks acquired the land. Learn more about how the park was created.

Today Wilder Ranch State Park covers approximately 7,000 acres, with 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Major wetland restoration projects have attracted some of the original flora and fauna back to the area. In the cultural complex, visitors can explore Victorian homes, barns, shops, gardens, the historic Bolcoff adobe, and discover the history of early ranchers and farmers through tours, living history demonstrations and special events. 


  • Fires and smoking are not permitted on any trail.
  • All natural and cultural park features are protected by law. Do not remove or harm plants, animals or other features of the park.
  • Bicycles, please obey 15 mph speed limit; stop when approaching a horseback rider; walk bicycles through ranch complex and be respectful of hikers.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the park.

Recreate Responsibly

Before you visit, check the Recreate Responsibly page to protect yourself, family, friends and your community by following these measures during your visit.

More Info

(831) 423-9703