Old Cove Landing Trail In-and-Out
3 miles in and out; 60 minutes; easy
If you’re feeling more ambley than hikerly, or you have little kids along, this is the outing for you. From the Highway 1 parking lot a paved path leads to the farm complex (a cultural preserve with an interpretive center—not a bad choice for a lazy day either); a dirt path cuts off to the right and crosses the railroad tracks.
The 1.5-mile Old Cove Landing Trail is flat, skirts the bluffs between the ocean and the Brussels sprouts fields, and offers a view of Wilder Beach and a wetlands that together form a natural preserve closed to the public. The shell-encrusted rock formations on the open ocean side are a favorite of seagulls, brown pelicans, Brandt's cormorants and black oystercatchers, the latter identifiable by their skinny orange beaks.
Fern Grotto, with its vegetation sprouting from seacliff walls, is a good turnaround point, or you can continue on to Sand Plant Beach. Wear a jacket on this hike—it’s almost always breezy by the coast.
Challenging variation:Old Cove Landing Trail to Ohlone Bluff Trail to Four-Mile Beach
10 miles in and out; 4 hours; moderate
You can do a long in-and-out by continuing past Sand Plant Beach on the Ohlone Bluff Trail (another 3.5 miles) and cruising the coast past more Brussels sprouts fields and Strawberry Beach until you get to picturesque Four Mile Beach, a local surf destination. Pretty stands of cypress on top of the bluffs there make for a nice picnicking spot.
Return to Wilder Ranch State Park.