BACKPACKING TRIP AT HENRY W. COE STATE PARK
TRIP · 3-day backpacking trip
FOR · Friends & budding backpackers
DISTANCE · 15 mile loop with 3,524 ft of elevation gain
VIBE · Challenging & rewarding
COST · $
DRIVE · 2 hours from SF
PERMIT · Yes! Pick one up at Hunting Hollow Entrance.
IDEAL DATES · May - October
PETS · Not allowed on trails and the backcountry
WHY HENRY W. COE STATE PARK?
Henry W. Coe is the second largest state park in CA (after Anza-Borrego Desert State Park). It has about 87,000 acres of lofty ridges & 250 miles worth of trails. It's an expansive area that draws hikers, equestrians & mountain bikers, without the Yosemite-level crowds. Summers are sizzling with highs in the 100s, so plan to visit in the fall or spring. You'll have no trouble picking up a backpacking permit, unless it's Memorial Day weekend. Whether it's a two-night or week-long adventure, you'll have plenty of wilderness to explore at Henry Coe.
REGISTER FOR A BACKPACKING PERMIT AT HUNTING HOLLOW ENTRANCE
Henry Coe SP has three main entrances: Coe Ranch, Hunting Hollow & Dowdy Ranch. You can only self-register or pick up a backpacking permit on the day of your trip from Coe Ranch or Hunting Hollow. Permits are first-come, first-serve (FCFS), but you won't have any trouble securing one outside of a spring holiday weekend, like Memorial Day. Parking spots are limited though so try to get to the trailhead as early as possible.
There are designated FCFS backcountry campsites in the western part of the park, but you can generally camp where ever you'd like. Some of these campsites have outhouses, but they're not always stocked with TP.
Permit fees: $5 per person a night & $8 parking fee per vehicle a night ($6 at Hunting Hollow Entrance). Bring exact change if the visitor centers are closed, otherwise, you can pay by credit card.
STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW
Bears don't live in Henry Coe so you won't need a bear canister. Be mindful of critters though & don't leave your food out!
As of May 7, 2021, backcountry campfires are not allowed due to hot & dry conditions. Gas backpacking stoves are fine though.
Water levels vary season by season. In the spring, you might encounter creek crossings, and in the summer, water sources may be dried up. Study your route & check spring water conditions before your trip. Park rangers recommend carrying 4 to 6 liters of water per person each day.
Practice Leave No Trace! That means properly poopin' in the backcountry & leaving the outdoors as you found it.
LEAVE SF AS EARLY AS YOU CAN
- LAST PIT STOP · 76 - 14660 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill
PARK & REGISTER FOR A BACKPACKING PERMIT AT HUNTING HOLLOW ENTRANCE
- Pick up a backpacking permit for Kelly Lake
- Power up on some snacks, layer on sunscreen, bug spray & fill up your water bottles (at least 3 liters depending on the time of year)
- Walk an easy, flat 3 miles along Coit Road to Anza Trailhead
- It's a steady climb along Anza Trail to Jackson Road
- After hiking along Jackson Trail, around the 5-mile mark at the junction of Jackson Trail & Elderberry Spring Trail is Elderberry Spring. It's a reliable water source for all but the driest years in CA. It'll be on your left on Elderberry Spring Trail, just a couple hundred yards away
- From Jackson Road, hike to Wasno Road & then to Kelly Lake Trail
ARRIVE & SET UP CAMP AT KELLY LAKE!
- There's an open meadow on the north shore of Kelly Lake that makes for a great campsite
- You'll be here for two nights so get comfy & settle in
- After you've claimed your spot, cool off with dip in the lake
CHILL & COOK UP DINNER
- You did it! Enjoy your first night in Henry W. Coe State Park!
CAR TO CAMP: 7.8 miles, 2,018 feet of elevation gain, about 4 - 5 hours
MAKE BREKKIE, PACK LUNCH & DAY HIKE TO PACHECO FALLS
- Fill up on water, pack snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, swimsuit & towel
- Hike 4 miles with 735 feet of elevation gain from Kelly Lake to Pacheco Falls
- From camp, take Coit Road to Coit Lake. There's a picnic table & restroom on the western side of the lake if you want to take a break
- Return to Coit Road and hike towards Fish & Game Trail
- Hike Fish & Game Trail to Live Oak Spring Trail until you reach Pacheco Falls Trail. Take the trail to Pacheco Falls!
ENJOY LUNCH & AN AFTERNOON SWIM AT PACHECO FALLS
- The falls usually flow until late spring & can run dry during the summer. Watch out for poison oak near the falls!
- Fill up your water bottles before heading back to camp
HIKE BACK TO KELLY LAKE
- It's a 4 mile hike with about 560 feet of elevation of gain back the same route from Pacheco Falls to camp. Refill your water bottles at Coit Lake.
SETTLE BACK IN & COOK A SUNSET DINNER
- Savor your last evening at Henry Coe & spend the rest of the evening stargazing & swapping stories
DAY HIKE: 8.2 miles round-trip with 1,759 ft of total elevation gain, about 4 - 5 hours
PACK UP & LEAVE CAMP AROUND 8 AM
- Cook up brekkie, pick up any random pieces of litter around camp & pack lunch to-go & snacks for the return trek
- Layer on sunscreen, bugspray & fill up your water bottles!
HIKE BACK TO HUNTING HOLLOW ENTRANCE
- From camp, take Kelly Lake Trail to Cattle Master Trail
- Hike along Cattle Master Trail until you reach Wasno Road
- Follow Wasno Road to Tule Pond Trail
- From Tule Pond Trail, take Grizzly Gulch Trail. If you need to, refill your water bottles at Tule Pond, which you'll pass on Grizzly Gulch
- From Grizzly Gulch, hike along Serpentine Trail to Steer Ridge Road
- After 1.3 miles, you'll have two options: you can either take Steer Ridge Trail, a steeper, exposed trail back to Hunting Hollow OR take Jim Donnelly Trail off of Steer Ridge Trail for a less intense, but longer trail back to the car. Jim Donnelly adds about two miles to the route.
RETURN TO CAR & HEAD TO CRAFT ROOTS, A VEGAN BAR & GRILL
- Diners are blown away by their buffalo cauliflower & burgers
- Located at 17230 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill
- Closed Mondays & Tuesdays | Open from Noon - 8 PM
CAMP TO CAR: About 7.2 miles with 1,506 ft of elevation gain, about 4 - 5 hours
PAY IT FORWARD LIKE BEZZI
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LAST UPDATED: July 29, 2021
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