Nearby. Family appropriate. Diverse environments.
Quail Hollow Ranch
Neil Wiley

This nearby Santa Cruz County park packs a lot of natural beauty into three hundred acres. Located about a mile off East Zayante Road, itís an easy drive worth taking for a family outing, a special class, or a short day hike. The sandhill habitat is unique; less than 200 acres remain in the world, but the park also displays amazing natural diversity. Short walks can take you and your family through sandy parkland, along riparian corridors, around a large pond, amidst maritime and California mixed chaparral, and up through forests of mixed oaks, madrone, eucalyptus, evergreen, dwarf redwoods, and ponderosa pines.

The wide range of habitat attracts hundreds of bird species to Quail Hollow, including the rare golden eagle. You may also see the Mount Hermon June beetle, the Zayante band-winged grasshopper, Ben Lomond spineflower, and the Ben Lomond wallflower. All four are seen only in the Zayante sandhills of Santa Cruz County.

The visitor center for the park is located in a historic ranch house once owned by the Lane family, the publishers of Sunset magazine. Inside, youíll find a comfortable living room filled with nature exhibits, a working kitchen (once the Sunset demonstration kitchen), and a classroom for meetings and presentations. Next to the house are a large shaded picnic area, horse stable, and a parking area for fifty cars. The ranch house, picnic area, and stables are available for rent. Quail Hollow is a popular location for weddings, "nature" birthday parties, docent-led hikes, and other special events.

The trails

A trailhead behind the house offers access to the trail system.

The Discovery Loop is an easy, short, and level loop of less than a mile that takes you through open meadows and light riparian oak and ponderosa pine forest, by a large pond usually occupied by noisy waterfowl, and back to the park center. A brochure, available at the visitor center, details a self-guided nature tour using this loop.

The Chaparral Loop makes a one-mile loop through meadows, chaparral, and mixed-oak forest. Open, dry areas support a diverse variety of chaparral and sandhill plants.

The Italian Trail connects with the Chaparral Loop and the Sunset Trail. The climbs are moderate and the forest is a bit denser. It is a nice alternative to the lower trails.

The Sunset Trail offers the greatest diversity, the steepest climbs, and the best views in the park. It offers views of the ranch, Zayante Valley, and Monterey Bay. You may be tempted to stop at the first vista point with a bench, but keep going to the top to see dwarf redwoods and the best scenic views.

Seasonal events

March is gardening month. Although a sensitive habitat area east of the Discovery Trail is closed to the public, docent-led hikes are scheduled every Sunday in April. April is also one of the best months to see wildflowers. Mayís Memorial Day features a 1950s-style play day and picnic, with lots of family games.

Birds flock to Quail Hollow throughout the year, but the best months for bird watching are during high-migration in June and November. June also features docent-led nocturnal hikes.

In July, children from ages six to eleven can enjoy a two-week day camp.

For more information about current programs, group reservations, and trail conditions, call Quail Hollow naturalist Lee Summers, Wednesday through Sunday, at 831-335-9348. For information about facility rentals, call 831-454-4976. Trails are usually open every day, but the ranch house is typically open only Wednesday through Sunday.

The way to Quail Hollow

Drive south on Highway 17 to the Mount Hermon Road exit. Take Mount Hermon Road through Scotts Valley 3.8 miles to Graham Hill Road. Turn left on Graham Hill Road, drive a short distance, than turn left on East Zayante Road. Take Zayante Road 1.9 miles to Quail Hollow Road. Turn left and drive about 1.1 miles to the park.

 

(c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 mountain network news All rights reserved.