Wilder Ranch (Eucalyptus Loop and Long Meadow Trail)
27% SINGLETRACK67% FIRE ROAD5% PAVED1% ROAD
In my opinion, Wilder Ranch deserves to be ranked as one of the top mountain biking destinations in the Bay Area. While it may not have as much pure appeal to hard-core mountain bikers as Skeggs Point, Annadel, or Demo Forest does, it has a wider variety of trails compared to them (with sun-baked fire-road climbs, narrow singletrack through open meadows, an easy meander along a bluff's edge, as well as dim wooded switchbacks and technical sections), and it has a higher amount of total trail length compared to places like Camp Tamarancho and Rockville. On top of these, it is on the coast, so beautiful ocean views open up on many occassions during your ride.
Note that parking at Wilder Ranch is subject to a day use fee. As of this writing, this fee is 10 dollars, I believe. If you arrive at the park before the toll booth attendant, there's a slot where you can self pay. (It couldn't hurt to come prepared with a pen and exact change.) While there is also free roadside parking along Highway 1 just outside the park entrance and I do see a lot of people park there, I hope you find it in you to opt for the paid parking. My philosophy is to try and support these parks as much as I can (especially since I don't do other kinds of work for these parks anyway, like volunteering for trail maintenance). And if the parks suffer, we'll be the first ones to suffer along with them...
This route is something of an "introduction to Wilder Ranch" for riders with less than full confidence or riding experience. It includes a representative but limited sampling of the singletrack goodness available in the park and a good dose of its ocean views while consisting mostly of relatively merciful climbs and non-technical descents on fire roads. Experienced riders may turn up their noses at this route suggestion because it bypasses some of the technical highlights of Wilder such as the Enchanted Loop and the Zane Gray Cutoff, but I think it will be appreciated by less experienced riders who'd like to try a Wilder Ranch ride without getting in over their heads.
The ride starts out with a climb on Engelsmans Loop. This is mostly a tame climb except for a couple of very short steep bursts. This portion of Engelsmans Loop transforms into a singletrack and starts meandering through small clumps of woodlands before you make your way onto the next pretty singletrack that is Wild Boar Trail. Wild Boar connects to Old Cabin Trail very shortly, which continues as a playful singletrack under tree cover. There is one very tricky left turn on Old Cabin Trail right by a creek bed, followed by a moderate climb and some almost overgrown, twisty, uphill section along a small ridgetop). After a short emergence into sunlight on Eucalyptus Loop, the ride dives back under tree cover one more time before emerging into an open meadowy part.
At this point, the route turns uphill and continues on Eucalyptus Loop. This is an easy fire road climb that only has one or two short and steep segments. As the climb flattens out, you'll find a nice rest spot with a couple of picnic tables next to a small stand of trees, close to the junction with Chinquapin Trail. Once you're done kicking back and enjoying the view to the ocean from this vista point, you continue on Chinquapin Trail. This trail connects with Long Meadow Trail close to the uppermost (public) reaches of the park.
Long Meadow Trail represents the beginning of the "return" portion of your ride. Initially, Long Meadow Trail cuts through a few patches of woodlands. In its latter parts, sightlines grow longer and you start catching glimpses of the ocean among the scenery that you face as you make your way through this gradual descent. Near the end of Long Meadow Trail, you do an uncharacteristically steep but short descent followed by a sharp curve to the right. This is the spot where you'll see, right by the trail, the stone walls and foundations of some old buildings that were used for lime production. (I want to say "they were limekilns" but I'm not sure if these particular structures housed the actual kilns.)
Shortly after seeing those ruins, you connect back to Engelsmans Loop at a four-way junction. This trail will take you all the way back to the beginning, in the company of increasingly prominent views of the sea. There are even a couple of short and relatively rocky dips that add to the fun near the junction where the loop originally splits into two, close to the ranch complex.
At the beginning and end of the ride, you'll be walking through historic Wilder Ranch itself. These facilities make quite a few fun and educational activities available to families on weekends. The historic farm equipment and vehicles, and the blacksmith shop demo are definitely worth a look, especially if you're visiting the park with some little ones.
© Ergin Guney
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