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The Trail Companion (ISSN 1528-0241 (print); 1094-222X (online)) is the quarterly newsletter of the Trail Center.

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The Trail Companion

Spring 2000

Theme: San Francisco Bay Area Wildflowers

Six Sure-Fire Wildflower Hikes


Wilder Ranch State Park

The key word here is yellow. This park has the most abundant and reliable displays of yellow brodiaea and golden mariposa lilies (Calochortus luteus) that we know. To find them, walk from the parking lot through the farm interpretive center, and through the tunnel that goes north under the highway.

Yellow mariposa lily, Wilder Ranch
Yellow mariposa lily, Wilder Ranch
Photo by Tim Oren
For a roughly four mile, 500 foot gain loop, go about a quarter mile to a confused junction and take the middle of five paths ahead, the Engelsman trail uphill along the east boundary of the park. Patches of intermixed yellow mariposa lily, yellow brodiaea and Ithuriel's spear (Triteleia laxa) will be found all along the loop. Take it to the top of the hill, and return downward through wild flower meadows on the other half of the loop, returning to the same junction (the second leg of this trail is shown as the Clay Ridge trail on some older maps).
      For a shorter version of the hike, also with great displays of lily and brodiaea, proceed as before through the tunnel, but turn left on the Wilder Ridge Loop trail before reaching the multi-way intersection. (This trail is known as the Vaca trail on some maps.)

Golden brodaiea, Wilder Ranch
Golden brodaiea, Wilder Ranch
Photo by Tim Oren
The trail works its way up through meadows toward the wooded heights above. You can go as far as the Twin Oaks trail junction for a look at late season woodland flowers, then retrace your steps for a round trip of about 3.5 miles, with a 400-foot rise.
      The last yellow treat is at the opposite end of the park. From a roadside pullout on Highway 1 at the west end of the park, walk toward the water and Four Mile Beach. From there, take the bluff top trail past agricultural fields about a mile eastward to Three Mile Beach. Unless the winter storms have claimed them, there you will find a sea of yellow bush lupines (Lupinus arboreus) below the bluffs. The massed aroma is heady, bees drone constantly, and small rabbits hide beneath the bushes. Round trip is about three miles, essentially level except for bluff scrambling.

Getting there: Just west of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Parking and interpretive center turnoff to the south, about two miles out of town.

Hike distance and elevation change: various

Best time for flowers: late May to mid-June

On the Web:Wilder Ranch State Park on the California State Parks site.

<== Back 4 of 7 Next ==>

Six Sure-Fire Wildflower Hikes
San Pedro Valley County Park
Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve
Wilder Ranch State Park
Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
Joseph D. Grant County Park
Sunol Regional Wilderness
A Few More Wildflower Tips
Identifying the Mystery Plant
Wildflower and Plant Guides - Web and Electronic Resources

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