Discovery Loop Trail
1 mile; 30 min; easy
This flat, easy trail heads south from the parking lot across a seasonal marsh (impassable in the rainy season unless you truly don't mind very muddy boots) and past a pond inhabited by endangered Western pond turtles. It meanders along a willow and oak riparian forest with grassland on one side, then hairpins back at the end of the meadow for a brief traipse through a really lovely patch of ponderosa pines. The best-looking mature ponderosa pines in the county are on this trail, and did we mention that ponderosas shouldn’t even exist here? The sandhill habitat of Santa Cruz County is the only place in California outside of the Sierra Nevada where these big, sweet-smelling trees grow (they smell like vanilla according to some people, butterscotch according to others).
In springtime, lakes of purple lupine spring up in the central meadow and on the approach to the parking area from Quail Hollow Road. Tiny wildflowers dot the grass like confetti.
Proceed past the horse barns, skirting mixed evergreen forest, and back to the ranch house, and you’ve just hit five of the habitats that make Quail Hollow Ranch famous among eco-nerds: pond, grassland, riparian, ponderosa forest and mixed evergreen forest.
Back to Quail Hollow Ranch.