Mild to Wild
Harvey West, Pogonip,
and Wilder Ranch
You may have heard of Harvey West. It’s that 50-acre urban park behind Costco in Santa Cruz, the one with the swimming pools. The teaching pool remains open, but the large lap pool has been closed due to lack of funding. Now, it looks like the bigger pool will reopen for the summer.
Harvey West is also home to baseball with six ball fields. Other sports are represented with fields for football and soccer, a volleyball court, and play areas, complete with a slide.
Families can also enjoy a real locomotive, a stagecoach, and the “Kid’s Kottage.” Six reservable picnic areas and three permanent barbecues serve small-group picnics.
Wedding and event planners might consider the 152-seat clubhouse. The facility features a deck area, full kitchen, four barbecue pits, two wet bars, an indoor fireplace, and private restrooms, or for outside events, try the well-manicured, large, open grass area of the Friendship Garden.
Harvey West to Pogonip
Although trail entrances are not readily visible, you can find them at the Wagner Grove in the southeast section of the park, and beyond the Friendship Garden at the west end. I couldn’t access the Wagner Grove trail to upper park trails, because a downed tree had closed this entrance, but I had better luck at Friendship Garden. Finding my way through heavy brush and a poorly defined trail was difficult at first, but the single-track Dos Puentes Loop Trail became easier to follow. As the loop turned back toward the park, I saw a trail that took me up a relatively sharp incline to the north. This is the Harvey West connector to Pogonip.
This second city park packs a lot of variety in one square mile. In one short hike, you can see views of the ocean, green hills, and the Santa Cruz skyline, visit historical sites (lime kilns and a landmark clubhouse), and walk under the shade of mixed evergreen forest, including oaks, madrone, bay, eucalyptus, fir, and redwood. You walk in dark forest, and then emerge into large sunlit meadows.
Although I’ve hiked here before, the trail from Harvey West displayed the park in a different perspective. I liked the climb up Lookout Trail as it opened to meadow vistas. When I arrived at Spring Trail, I turned right (north) to walk along the ridge, and then completed the loop by turning right on Brayshaw, and staying right through the large Main Meadow on Pogonip Creek Trail. Passing through the gate, I turned right again to meet up with the Harvey West Connector. Before reaching Harvey West, I took a short- cut trail down past the metro barns to Dubois Street. This eliminated re-walking the Dos Puentes Loop.
The big advantage of entering Pogonip via Harvey West is parking. The other entrances have few if any parking spaces. Harvey West offers street parking along Harvey West Boulevard, and inside the park along Evergreen Street.
Pogonip to Wilder Ranch
In Pogonip, I could have walked up Spring Trail, passed by the old lime kilns on Lime Kiln Trail, and on to Rincon Trail, continued back down U-Con Trail to Fuel Break Road and Chinquipin Road. When I crossed Empire Grade on Chinquipin, I would be in Wilder Ranch, a California State park.
But I didn’t. Instead, I drove north on Highway 1 to Bay Street, and then turned left on High Street, which becomes Empire Grade. I saw the double gates for Chinquipin Trail 3.3 miles from the western entrance of UCSC, but I continued on another 0.4 of a mile north on Empire Grade, and turned left on Smith Grade. At 0.9 of a mile, I parked across the road from Woodcutter’s Trail, but that trail was closed, so I returned to the double gates for Chinquipin Trail, being careful to park at least 0.1 of a mile from the gates.
I could have hiked down through Gray Whale/Wilder Ranch all the way to the ocean. I didn’t do that either, because I didn’t have a ride at the bottom. You could, however, if you set up a shuttle with one car at the Wilder Ranch parking lot, and the other at Harvey West. UCSC, or on Empire Grade. Bikers can’t use the Harvey West Connector, but they can ride up the U-Con Trail to Chinquipin Trail and Wilder Ranch, with its 35 miles of multi-use trails offering some of the best mountain-bike riding in California.
Whether you like your explorations mild or wild, you can shape your own experience at Harvey West, Pogonip, and Wilder Ranch.
For more information, visit www.cityofsantacruz.com, and click on regional parks, and then Harvey West Park, or click on open spaces, and then Pogonip.
For more about Wilder Ranch, visit www.parks.ca.gov, and then click on Wilder Ranch SP.
You can also find other stories about Pogonip and Wilder Ranch at this website: