Wilder Ridge can be accessed from the horse camping area (see my post on Horseman’s Trail for that description), or can be accessed via the main entrance to the Wilder Backcountry at the Corrals by the highway 1 Tunnel.
This description will take you from the Tunnel.
Total Wilder Ridge loop mileage = 6 miles.
Start on Englesmann Trail (see Englesmann Trail for trail desc) and travel just past the corrals and take your first left. You will start climbing a shallow hill immediately. Your views of the ocean will start spreading out as you climb up this first hill. As you look down and slightly left towards the ocean, you can see Wilder Beach’s sandy shores and it’s white crashing waves. As you crest the hill, enjoy a nice flat wide path. Just after you pass the pond and the trail veers to the left, you will come to a signed junction. Take your left fork. Beginning a 1.2 mile section of single track, you’ll start winding in and around the base of the lovely grassy wide sloping meadows on this trail. Looking up to your right at the bluff in the distance overhead…you will actually be looking at Wilder Ridge, and your way back home. But, continue on “dairy” trail as it crosses over Old Dairy Gulch, and then Sandy Flat Gulch. At 1.2 miles, you will hit the Zane Gray Cutoff which is marked. You could take the left fork onto Horseman’s Trail and head up to the Wilder horse camping area….or continue on Dairy and Wilder Ridge by taking Zane Grey Cutoff to the right. Taking Zane Grey to complete the Wilder Ridge Loop, you’ll travel Zane Grey for .9 miles and will have a couple of climbs in front of you. The last climb is the longest and winds around the far edge of the bluff you’ve been parallelling, and takes you to the top.
Patsy and Joyce on the final climb from Dairy to Wilder Ridge
Once on top, savor the views! From the top of “Dairy” you have a full view of the Monterey Bay all the way south to the Ventana Wilderness and Los Padres National Forest. After your break, head inland a short distance to another marked trail junction. To extend your day, go left and head for numerous other trails to enjoy….but bring your map! Or, go right and travel along the best part of the ‘Wilder Ridge” trail as it parallels Dairy down below with magnificent ocean views. Out on an exposed bluff, this trail can be breezy, so bring a sweater.
Dee, Patsy and Joyce enjoying a rest at the top of Dairy Trail
About a half a mile from the junction, you come to a sudden left turn. Here you will start downhill back to the trailhead. But first, take the obvious right fork 20 feet and park yourself at the picnic table for a rest at what locals call “Lookout.”
After having a rest at Lookout, head on down the trail and in .2 miles come to another marked sign for “Twin Oaks” trail which will be described in another page. To get back to the trailhead, continue right and down hill and in .7 miles from “Twin Oaks,” you will run into the first turnoff you took onto “Dairy.” Continue past this junction retracing your steps back to the trailhead.