Engelsmans Loop trail in Wilder Ranch State Park is a 4.5 mile mixed-use trail with a 500′ elevation gain. I’d say it’s a moderate trail, not particularly easy but also not too difficult. It’s an especially fantastic hike when there’s little to no marine layer over the bay, and you can pause at the top of the loop to sit on this bench and enjoy and fabulous view over the Monterey Bay.
Look for red-tailed hawks overhead, beetles and lizards below your feet, and wild turkeys gobbling and grazing in the open fields. You may be sharing the trail with people on bikes or horses – once I even saw a few people on electric Segways! The one thing you won’t see: dogs. Wilder Ranch doesn’t allow dogs in the park or on any of the trails.
Paid parking is available on the ocean side of Highway 1 in Wilder’s main lot. Access the trail by walking down from the parking lot to the historical buildings. Walk through the buildings past the barn, and you’ll find a tunnel that goes under the highway. Follow the tunnel straight over a bridge, and you’ll find signs marking Engelsmans Loop along with Wilder’s other trails.
There’s space to pull over on the south side of Highway 1 to the east of Wilder’s main entrance. I don’t like to recommend that, because it’s a short but steep climb down to the trail with no hand rails.
Hiking Engelsmans Loop
I prefer to take the east side, or right side, of the loop on my way up. The trail here is steeper than the west side, the terrain is often uneven, but you’re soon rewarded for the climb when you round a bend and catch a glimpse of this view:
The upper part of the loop is relatively flat as you loop around the field and enjoy the scenery. The climb down on the west side is longer and less steep than the way up. It takes you through a really pretty grove of of mature live oak trees.
While you’re there on the West Side, go and rest up at at Cafe Ivéta for an Italian espresso and one of their moist scones. Or else stop in El Salchichero for something to throw on the grill for dinner.
Click here to access a .pdf of the the California State Park’s Wilder Ranch brochure, which includes a complete trail map and a history of the property.