Hiking in Henry Coe Park

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Henry Coe Park is best explored in the spring, because the wildflowers are its most interesting feature. There is little in the way of epic hiking, or epic views, or major attractions. All the trails are quite easy. The highest elevation is barely above 1,000m.

The main park entrance is located near Morgan Hill, about 20 kms south of San Jose, off 101. From the Bay Area, take the East Dunne Ave exit, turn left (east) at the traffic light Follow signs for the park for about 20 kms. This is a narrow winding road. It easily takes 30 minutes from 101 to the park headquarters.

Loop to Mt Sizer, China Hole and Manzanita Point

One big day loop from the park headquarters includes both the most popular attraction, namely China Hole, and the highest point, namely Mt Sizer (recommended counterclockwise by everybody for reasons that are obscure to me, so of course i hiked it clockwise).

Park just before the visitor center across from the Manzanita Point Rd. After two minutes of paved road, you get to the trailhead for the Monument Trail. Follow the sings for Frog Lake. After a few more minutes this takes you Hobbs Rd, one of the many fire roads that dot the park. Hobbs Road climbs slowly and mildly towards Frog Lake and then towards the junction with the Middle Ridge Trail. From this junction Mt Sizer is clearly visible... if you know which one it is: Sizer is just a little hump on a very long ridge (Blue Ridge) that looks like a palisade on the other side of the gulch. Hobbs Rd descends steeply to Skeels' Meadow and Upper Camp to the Middle Fork Coyote Creek (easy to cross even in the rain season, unless it has just rained a lot). You are now about 1.5 hours into the hike. Then the road starts climbing (steeply) past Sada's Spring and summits at the junction with Blue Ridge Rd. You have gained about 500 meters of elevation in two kms). Turn right into Blue Ridge Rd that now rolls gently up and down towards Mt Sizer (about 200m after you turned right there is an unmarked fork and you want to bear right staying on the ridge). You are heading southeast towards Mt Sizer. There is no sign that marks the peak, but you recognize it because it is preceded by another unmarked fork and (if you bear right/straight again) you should notice the cabin to the left. This is just about 11 kms and three hours into the hike.

Blue Ridge Rd starts descending. It is not easy to spot the junction with Jackass Trail unless you know where it is. If you find it, take it. If not, turn right into Poverty Flat Road at the first major intersection, which in 2009 did not have a sign. (Jackass Trail is a shortcut that connects Blue Ridge Rd to Poverty Flat Rd further down at the creek). Poverty Flat Road heads south to the Coyote Creek (usually very easy to wade, unless it has just rained a lot). On the other side turn left into the trail that coasts the creek downstream, and is now called Creekside Trail. This trail takes you to China Hole, which is located just after the confluence of the creek with a tributary (about 5.5 hours into the hike). From China Hole (a hole at 350m of elevation) the trail leaves the creek and starts climbing to its right. You can take the detour to the Madrone Springs (left) or continue on the China Hole Trail that climbs up to 600m of elevation to Manzanita Point (about six hours into the hike). This is a very scenic trail in the spring when the shrubs that envelop the trail are dotted with white flowers. The name of the point is obvious when you realize that you are surrounded by several large manzanita trees (the trees with the smooth shiny red bark). China Hole Trail continues up (now very mildly) to Manzanita Point Camp (that some signs abbreviate to Manzanita Point). You cannot miss it because it has benches and it is a major intersection of two fire roads.

You turn right (follow the sign for "park headquarters") and continue a bit on this fire road, that is named Manzanita Point Rd. At the next junction you have three choices: continue on the fire road, take the Forest Trail on the right or the Springs Trail on the left. They all lead back to the visitor center in 30-45 minutes.

Nothing epic, and all of it at very low altitude, but a bit of steep up and down sections.

  • Manzanita Point Rd and Monument Trail
  • Junction with Hobbs Rd (0.8km)
  • Frog Lake (2.5km, 30')
  • Middle Ridge (3.6km, 1h)
  • Camp (6km, 1.5h)
  • Skeels' Meadow (a few minutes later)
  • Upper Camp (a few minutes later)
  • Middle Fork Coyote Creek (6.5km, 1.5h)
  • Sada's Spring (1h 45')
  • Blue Ridge Rd (8.7km, 2h 20')
  • Fork (9.8km to Sizer, 2h 39')
  • Mt Sizer (11km, 2h 46')
  • break (3h)
  • Junction of Blue Ridge Rd and Poverty Flat Rd (17.5km, 4h 30')
  • Junction with Mahoney Meadows Rd (4h 40')
  • Junction with Jackass Trail (4h 47')
  • Junction Poverty Flat Rd and China Hole trail (20km, 5h)
  • Wading the Coyote Creek and Creekside Trail (20km)
  • China Hole (20.5 km, 5h 30')
  • Junction of China Hole trail and Manzanita Point Road (5h 35')
  • Manzanita Point, junction with Coughar Trail (22.7 km, 6h)
  • Manzanita Point Camp, junction with Manzanita Point Rd (24.5 km, 6h 30')
  • Junction with Madrone Springs (6h 35')
  • Junction of Manzanita Point Rd and Springs Trail (26.7 km, 7h)
  • Junction of Springs Trail and Lion Springs (7h 20')
  • Corral Trail (7h 30')
  • Park headquarters (30 kms, 7h 40')

General map of the main area:

From the Hunting Hollow entrance one can do easier hikes. The highest peak around is Wilson Peak, which is more like a little hill. Coit Lake is reached from the same entrance, further north. These used to be ranches, apparently and the "trails" are really roads. Not much in terms of adventure.
Pictures of these trails
Henry Coe's website
Directions to the park
China Hole
Grizzly Gulch
Wildflowers of Henry Coe Park