Wilder Ranch State Park, just a few miles up Highway One from Santa Cruz, California, illustrates the region's remarkable biodiversity and throws in a few history lessons as well.
This 12-mile loop samples most of what lies in store at the park: an amazing array of birds and wildflowers along California's jagged coastline, followed by a climb up the hillside into a forest filling up with young coast redwoods.
If you're not up for a long trek, don't fret: stroll around the old ranch house site and wander down to the coast, then retrace your steps.
Thanks to EveryTrail user Randyrml for recording this track and adding his photographs.
Contact the park: 831-423-9703
Parking fees: $10 per carload, but you can park free along Highway One and hike in.
Facilities: Park HQ includes bathrooms, running water and a gift shop.
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
Use extreme caution around the cliffs near the ocean.
Dress in layers: it can be very chilly near the ocean and quite warm in the park's higher reaches.
The park is very popular on weekends; a weekday visit will be much more pleasant.
Driving directions: The Wilder Ranch is 1.8 miles north of the Western Drive stoplight in Santa Cruz.