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Wild Wonders: Rancho del Oso

Sixty miles south of San Francisco, the coastal section of Big Basin State Park known as Rancho del Oso is known for its riparian bird, native plant, and tide pool habitats.

trail through Waddell Valley at Rancho del Oso-Big Basin State Park, San Mateo County, Calif., picture
Photo credit
Photo: Scott Peden
Photo caption
The Skyline-to-the-Sea Bypass Trail overlooks Waddell Valley at Rancho del Oso.

Legend holds that in 1769, a Spanish settler sitting in the valley at Rancho del Oso felt the ground rumble, then saw a pack of 1,200-pound California grizzlies stampede to shore to feed on a beached whale. Though bears no longer prowl this slice of land between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, 60 miles south of San Francisco, the area is still home to sundry creatures great and small. Red-tailed hawks soar over redwoods, salamanders crawl across tree roots, and starburst anemones pulse quietly in tide pools. At sunrise, birdsong fills the forest, as goldfinches, warblers, and grosbeaks awaken. As you stroll the 1.5-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea Bypass Trail overlooking Waddell Valley, you'll get a bird's-eye view of this lively landscape. Though the park may be quieter than it was centuries ago, it's still abuzz with wild and wonderful life.

This article was first published in Winter 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.