A major attraction to Cambria, the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve offers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean and 436 acres of trails for explorations and enjoyment. The trails are marked and are accessible for all skill levels. The ranch is open to the public from sunrise to sunset with clearly marked trails. There are guided docent walks that spotlight the various flora and fauna along the ranch, the biodiversity within this property houses many interesting species.
History of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve:
What we know now as the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve was first inhabited by native Salinan and Chumash tribes, possibly as early as 600bc Little is known about the earliest days of this stunning land, but the mid-1800’s brought the settling of the village now called Cambria. By the turn of the century, this heavily forested area had been cleared to allow cattle to graze. The ridgeline remains and is home to a 70-acre stand of the rare Monterey Pine tree. In the late 1800’s the ranch was purchased by the Fiscalini family and became the Fiscalini Town Ranch. It was sold in the 1980s to a real estate developer with plans for a residential community and a rumored golf course but creating such a venture along the coast proved a daunting task and the property again sold through a bankruptcy auction to another developer with a similar idea. At this time, a community organization was formed, Friends of the Ranchland joined forces with the American Land Conservancy to coordinate fundraising. Locals, local businesses, and supporters eventually were able to purchase the land for $11.1 million in 2000. In November, 2001, the 430-acre land was designated as forever open space.
Wonders of Nature:
You will soon realize how fortunate it was that this land was saved. There are views over Abalone Cove to the north, all the way up the coast toward Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise above the Pacific Ocean. The houses on the opposite side of the cove disappear from view as you continue down the trail. The property stretches about a mile along the coastline and does include parts of Santa Rosa Creek. The access points are on all 3 sides of the ranch. The easiest access from Moonstone Beach is via the southern end of the boardwalk where you can start your adventure. The bluff trail is a very easy walking trail, ADA compliant and accessible for everyone. The trail meanders south along grassy terrain above the rocky bluffs. The strategically placed benches are there for resting, but more for viewing. Take a moment to sit back and just see what flies, swims, or runs by you. The benches are hand-crafted by artisans from local driftwood and other materials and they add a quirky Cambria charm to the experience. The driftwood benches uniquely expresses the complexity of the curves and nooks of the driftwood and might inspire you to build a driftwood art sculpture of your own. For those wanting a more adventurous hike, the ranch offers trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The upper trails are more difficult but also offer amazing sunsets.
Enjoying the ranch means taking time to really explore and observe the workings of nature. The Ranch is bisected by Scenic Highway 1. Santa Rosa Creek offers migrating species a wildlife corridor that is not in competition with highway-speed traffic. The result is an amazing display of nature’s diversity including a number of endangered species and species of special concern. Red-legged frogs, tidewater gobies, western pond turtles, steelhead, monarch butterflies, great blue herons, burrowing owls, and Cooper’s hawks are ranch residents along with the compact cobweb thistle and the SLO County dwarf morning glory. Coyotes, black-tailed deer, and the occasional bobcat pass under the highway bridge to the western slope in search of dry season springs and forage.
The wildlife habitat includes endangered and threatened species including red-legged frogs, steelhead trout, and tidewater gobies. There are hundreds of bird species and you could encounter deer, raccoons, skunks, and even an occasional mountain lion. Ground squirrels are abundant and not at all shy about mobbing humans for food, so please remember not to feed them! You won’t believe how many of their friends show up when you do. As you look to the coastline, keep an eye out for water spouts as whale migrations run close to our shores and listen for the clanking sound of the sea otters breaking open their shellfish by placing a flat rock on their belly and smashing the shells onto it. Take a look at the kelp beds as it gets close to sunset and you will often see them there as they use the long strands to tether themselves for sleeping. Bring binoculars as much of the detail isn’t easy to see with the naked eye. Grab an artsy bench and sit a spell!
There are many opportunities to volunteer as a stewardship traveler. Contact the Friends of the Ranch at www.ffrp.org to learn more.