Cloverdale Ranch, view from high hill.

Cloverdale Ranch Preserve

Overview

Download Map (Opens in new window)
Hours
Open a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset. Public access to this preserve (currently limited to the Wilbur's Watch Trail) will be closed when the National Weather Service declares Red Flag Warning weather.

Cloverdale Ranch Open Space Preserve is an ecological jewel on the San Mateo County coast, and Midpen's newest preserve established in 2023. This vast landscape includes large tracts of biologically rich coastal grassland and coastal scrub habitats that support a rich community of native plants and wildlife, including many rare species.

Cloverdale Ranch is intertwined with the rich agricultural heritage on the San Mateo County Coast that continues today. Cattle that are part of Midpen's conservation grazing program help enhance the preserve's coastal grasslands and the native plants and wildlife that need these open areas. Private farmlands surrounding the preserve produce local food for our region. 

Image
Hiking: Designated Trails
Hiking: Designated Trails
Image
Bicycling: Not Permitted
Bicycling: Not Permitted
Image
Equestrian: Not Permitted
Equestrian: Not Permitted
Image
Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
Image
No Easy Access
No Easy Access
Image
Some parking
Parking: Designated Areas
Image
Camping: No Camping
Camping: No Camping
Image
Restrooms: Not Available
Restrooms: Not Available

Preserve Highlights & Features

Image
Runner on Wilbur's Watch Trail in Cloverdale Ranch Preserve by Teddy Miller.
(Teddy Miller/POST)

Ocean Views

Of Midpen's 27 preserves, Cloverdale Ranch is nearest to the coast. Currently, the only public access in Cloverdale Ranch Preserve is the 1-mile, out-and-back Wilbur's Watch Trail that can be accessed from a small parking area and trailhead just off Highway 1 south of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

What the Wilbur's Watch Trail lacks in distance, it makes up for in spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lighthouse and Point Año Nuevo. 

 

Stories from the Preserves

Join our e-mail list to stay up-to-date on this preserve and other Midpen news! 

 

Know Before You Go

Trails in Midpen preserves can be remote, providing a wildland experience in nature very different from a city park. Prepare to maximize a safe and enjoyable visit to open space preserves in all seasons by following these tips. Plan ahead before you leave:

  1. Always check trail conditions before leaving home to say up-to-date on regulations and potential temporary closures.
  2. Check the weather: Consider other plans during events such as storms or extreme heat.
  3. Bring a map: They can be printed or downloaded from the preserve webpages. Cell phones don’t always have service in some areas of Midpen preserves.
  4. Pack essentials: Water, weather-appropriate clothing, basic first aid supplies and food. Midpen preserves are wildland areas with minimal development. Consider sun protection, sturdy footwear, and long pants particularly in grassland areas where there may be ticks. 
  5. Bring a friend and tell someone your plan: Bring someone with you, and make sure someone knows where you are heading and when you expect to return.
  6. Make a backup plan: Some of the more popular preserve parking areas can fill early, especially on the weekends. Google Maps show how busy places are: search for a preserve and scroll down to the popular time graph. Plan accordingly and have a Plan B — one or two alternate locations ready in case your destination is full.
  7. Recreate responsibly: Play it safe by choosing low-impact activities, going slow and staying within your limits. It can take time for emergency responders to reach you out on the trails. Always remain aware of your surroundings. 
  8. Leave no trace: Midpen adheres to a Leave No Trace ethic in its preserves, which have no trash cans, so be prepared to leave nature as you found it by taking back everything that you bring in. Leave what you find, and respect plants and wildlife. 
  9. Midpen trails are for everyone: Treat people of all identities and abilities with kindness and respect.

 

Activities & Events

History

Midpen’s nonprofit land trust partner Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) preserved Cloverdale Ranch as open space through multiple transactions Between 1997 and 2012. POST invested more than $60 million into the property for purchase, restoration and stewardship costs.  POST worked with the San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD) to restore instream habitat in Butano Creek and connect it to its historic floodplain, 140-acres of willow and alder forest. These restoration activities re-established important wetlands that are vital to providing flood protection for the town and residents of Pescadero, and habitat relied upon by myriad species. The RCD has ongoing projects on the property. 

Midpen is a public agency, and its boundaries expanded to include the San Mateo County Coastside in 2004 with the unique mission to:

Acquire and preserve in perpetuity open space land and agricultural land of regional significance, protect and restore the natural environment, preserve rural character, encourage viable agricultural use of land resources, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.

Midpen's community-supported Vision Plan, created with robust public input process, identified the puchase of Cloverdale Ranch by Midpen as a high priority (See Vision Plan portfolio #13). Voters within Midpen’s service area passed Measure AA in 2014 to help fund the vision plan projects.

Nearly $10 million in additonal funding was assembled to enable Midpen to purchase Cloverdale Ranch from POST, including:

  • $8 million in state funding requested by Assemblymember Marc Berman.
  • $1.4 million grant from the California Department of Parks’ Recreational Infrastructure Revenue Enhancement Program.
  • $500,000 Measure K grant from San Mateo County. 

Midpen conducted a property evaluation and public engagement process, and in December of 2022, Midpen’s board of directors approved the purchase of 5,100 acres of Cloverdale Ranch from POST at a discounted price of $16.2 million. The purchase was finalized in June of 2023 creating Cloverdale Ranch Open Space Preserve.

While Midpen acquired the hilly “upland” areas of the property, POST retained ownership of the surrounding 400 acres of private, cultivated farmlands. POST also retained ownership of 1,200 acres that includes the Lake Lucerne Mutual Water Company, which primarily provides water for local crop irrigation. A portion of the lands on which the water company sits on the Cloverdale Ranch will potentially be considered for sale and transfer to Midpen in the future. In the meantime, discussions considering all of the complexities of the situation are happening to determine how to best manage the water company in the future.