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The Rolling Coaster

TrailCross Wilder Ranch

Wilder Ranch State Park

Date: (Sun.) Jun. 9, 2013
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Event Director: - 831.439.9822
Course Setter: Greg Favor
Type: C; 5 km, 10 km, and 10-mile trail runs with twists! Find your way with a map.

Course Setter's Notes

By Greg Favor


The event center & registration will be in the Cultural Preserve Area, a 0.2 mile walk east from either the official parking lot within the park, or from parking alongside Hwy 1 (which is 0.1 mile east of the park entrance). The Cultural Preserve Area is on the south side of Hwy 1, and is a small complex of historic buildings and fenced-in corrals, with the event center located on the central and largest lawn. The start will be a further 0.2 mile walk from the registration area.

The current weather forecast (a week in advance) suggests a very nice event day​—​sunny and around 70 degrees.

The Terrain

Wilder Ranch is located on Hwy 1 just west of Santa Cruz and the UCSC campus. It extends from ocean-front bluffs and beaches on the southern side of Hwy 1, across to the north side of Hwy 1 where most of the park then stretches up into the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The park consists of areas of open grassland, of scattered and more than just scattered brush, and of slow to dense forest.

The Courses

There are three courses at this event, roughly 5K, 10K, and 10M in length. The 10M course combines the 10K course followed by the 5K course. So, in essence, there are two distinct courses: 5k and 10K, with corresponding maps. 10M people will receive both maps and switch maps just after passing through the 10K Finish checkpoint. (This provides the option for 10M people to drop down to the 10K course and simply finish at that checkpoint, or carry on with the 5K map. So people can register for the 10M course if they want to play it by ear as to which length they ultimately feel like doing.)

There are 14 checkpoints/controls on the 10K course, and 10 checkpoints/controls on the 5K course (and thus 24 controls total on the 10M course). The 5K course is relatively flat, but with a few ups and downs, largely covering the ocean side of Wilder Ranch. The 10K course goes up into the hills on the inland side of the park, and thus contains a mix of flat to medium hill climbs (all runnable for stronger runners).

Depending on route selection and staying on-trail versus shortcutting, many people on the 10K course may travel more like 11K–12K. Similarly, people on the 10M course may travel between 10 and 11 miles.

This TrailCross event is particularly trail-runner friendly in that controls will be located nearby trails​—​not necessarily trivially obvious, but certainly not difficult to find. By orienteering standards the controls are beginner to easy intermediate in navigation challenge. The overall challenge will be to navigate the trails of Wilder, make route choices and decisions when to try shortcutting, recognize when you are approaching the area of a control, and use the control description to locate/spot the control. And, of course, enjoy a trail run/hike/walk through a nice variety of terrain, and remember to look up from the map and observe the ocean views.

The 5K course encounters one aid station, shortly after the Start and at the Finish. The 10K course has a remote aid station midway through the course (co-located with a control), plus an aid station after the Finish (the same as the 5K aid station). The 10M course has the 10K remote aid station, the end-of-10K aid station, and the Finish aid station (i.e., around 6K, 12K, and the Finish). For the majority of people, carrying water (such as a water bottle or CamelBak) is also encouraged.

The Map

The map was created roughly ten years ago. While largely accurate, various natural and man-made changes have occurred over the years. All notable and relevant updates have been made to the map. The two notable caveats are the following:

Please also note that the rangers require us to avoid serious (aka cross-country) off-trail travel across the big stretches of open pastures/grassland. The courses have been designed to minimize motivations to do this.

Note that there is one large, clearly marked, out-of-bounds area on the north side of Hwy 1. There is also a section of an official park trail that is closed due to erosion, with small dirt berms and cables at the two ends; this is marked on the map. An alternate trail has been created that connects between the two ends of this section; this new trail is well-established and has been added to the map.

Within the building and fence complex of the Cultural Preserve Area, do not climb over the fences (there is no need to do this during the event).


Poison oak should be very limited and avoidable​—​as long as you don't try to travel through "open forest/white" areas that now have moderate to dense undergrowth.

Ticks are out and about​—​recent course vetters have picked up a tick or two. So conscientiously check afterwards for ticks.