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.
The Wilbur’s Watch Trail is open to the public, and traverses through coastal scrub and grasslands from Highway 1 to a lookout point for viewing the coastline and Pigeon Point lighthouse. The public process to create additional public access at Cloverdale Ranch Open Space Preserve will take time to balance environmental protection, agriculture and community needs. In the interim, Midpen is providing limited access via guided walks and other programming through our guided activities program, with the next offerings expected in the spring of 2024.
Wilbur's Watch Trail is 1 mile long. This trail does not loop, visitors must head back the same way they came in.
Preserve Highlights & Features
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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:
- Always check trail conditions before leaving home to say up-to-date on regulations and potential temporary closures.
- Check the weather: Consider other plans during events such as storms or extreme heat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Midpen trails are for everyone: Treat people of all identities and abilities with kindness and respect.
- No reported trail closures.
Wilbur's Watch Trail parking area (approximately six spaces): Access to the 1-mile, out-and-back Wilbur's Watch Trail. From Highway 1, just south of the Pigeon Point lighthouse, turn east onto Pigeon Point Road to access the small, unpaved parking area and trailhead.
- Bicyclists: Bikes are NOT allowed in this Preserve. For information on preserves open to bikes visit the Bicycle Access page.
- Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in this Preserve. For information on dog-friendly preserves visit the Dog Access page. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Midpen accommodates service dogs in preserves wherever we allow public access.
- Equestrians: Horses are NOT allowed in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For information on preserves open to horses visit the Equestrian Access page.
- Fires are prohibited in preserves.
- Plants & Wildlife: Please leave undisturbed. If you encounter wildlife during a visit, do not approach, startle or feed it. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will run away, some wildlife can be dangerous.
- Smoking is prohibited in preserves.
- Water Areas: Swimming, wading or engaging in any water-contact activity is prohibited.
- Weapons are prohibited in preserves.
There is not currently permit access at this preserve.
Midpen trails and facilities are generally very safe. However, you are entering an environment where there are some naturally occurring hazards. Reasonable caution and common sense should be utilized when venturing into any outdoor environment.
Be Prepared and Aware
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle! Lock your vehicle and store valuables out of sight or take them with you on the trail.
Rattlesnakes are native to this area and are especially active in warm weather.
Poison oak grows on most preserves: Learn to identify and avoid it in all seasons.
Ticks are present in this area and may carry diseases.
Mountain lions are a natural part of this region’s environment and are occasionally seen.
In Case of Emergency
If you experience an emergency (fire, accident or other immediate threat to life or property), call 911. For nonemergencies, call 650-691-1200.
Activities & Events
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.