Sunset Gone Wilder

Bluff hike at Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz

So you’re sort of snobby about your sunsets? You like a brilliant technicolor all across the sky as the sun sets on the horizon? Great! Go Wilder! Wilder Ranch State Park’s Old Cove Landing Trail is an easy 3-mile (round-trip) coastal hike in Santa Cruz. And a hike here at sunset delivers a colorful show on clear days. Follow the trail from the main parking lot as it weaves a path through land coated in coastal shrubs.

The trail continues towards the cliffs, where views of pristine beaches and the Pacific are exhilarating. About a third of the way into the hike, there’s a bench that’s a nice perch for marveling at the sky as the sun breaks into amber streaks that deepen to purple and periwinkle. Scan the area for wildlife; harbor seals are known to hang out around the shore. Resume your place on the trail, which eventually turns inland and loops back to its starting point, wrapping up this eye-popping sunset trip.

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Bonus: Post sunset, head over to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, about a five-minute drive away. Try out their Dread Brown Ale, Devout Stout, or one of their seasonal ales, for those who want a little spice for their holiday season.

Wilder Ranch State Park is located west of the city of Santa Cruz, northbound on Hwy. 1. The parking lot is just off Hwy. 1 on Coast Rd. Parking fee $10. No dogs.

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