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Old Cove Landing Loop

Bay Area

Sea cliffs, beaches, wildlife, and farm animals—all in one place on the dramatic Santa Cruz coastline.

Hiking Easy

3.7 km
39 m
39 m
0-1 hrs
Low Point
5 m
High Point
24 m
Old Cove Landing Loop Map

Wilder Ranch has an interesting mix of activities for a state park. In this park you can hike through a nature preserve and along rugged coastline, but you can also tour a working dairy ranch, meet the farm animals, and talk to workers dressed in period clothing from the 1800s. That makes Wilder Ranch a particularly fun destination for a family trip.


Old Cove Landing Trail explores the coastline and part of the historic farm at the same time. It’s a mostly flat path of sand and gravel that is also open to bikes. On one side are sea cliffs and crashing waves, on the other side are farm fields and equipment. For most of the hike it’s easy to forget about the agriculture, however, because native vegetation obscures the field edges, and the ocean vista steals the show.

If hiking the loop in a clockwise direction, the first highlight is an overlook of Wilder Beach. This sandy strip with a river outlet is closed to visitation in order to protect wildlife habitat, but the view is satisfying. From there the trail continues along the top of sea cliffs, and each turn grants a new vantage over wave-battered alcoves, caves, and spits of sand. You may spot otters or seals among the surf. Note that the cliff edges are unprotected and can be unstable, so stay on the trail for safety and keep children closely supervised.

Soon the trail comes to Fern Grotto Beach, which you can walk on. It’s a sandy beach in a narrow, cliff-lined cove. Another beach you can get to is Sand Plant Beach, just a bit farther along the trail. These beaches are not good for swimming due to strong currents and submerged rocks, but the dramatic scenery is the main attraction. From Sand Plant, the trail turns inland, passing farm buildings and crossing a railroad on the way back to the parking lot.

Sources: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?pageid=28568 https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/549/files/wilderranchweb31609.pdf



Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area