Backpacking Recommendations

Backpacking at Henry W. Coe State Park can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  As with any camping preparation is key to your enjoyment and safety.  There are some hazards at Coe that should be noted.  Traveling on foot in the park with a pack can be strenuous as there are many steep dirt roads and trails in the park.  Temperatures in the summer time can approach 100 degrees but are typcially in the 80's.  We strongly recommend you purchase a park map before embarking on your trip.  Trail signs are on most roads and trails which are detailed on the map making your route finding easier to follow.  Refer to our cooporation associations website for Map information at

Backcountry Water
Springs and streams in the park do not meet California Water Quality Standards and should be purified before using.  Spring maintenance volunteers and staff maintain many year round and seasonal springs throughout the park. Check our Water Resources Page We recommended that you plan to carry 2 to 4 liters of water per person per day of your trip.  In the FAQ section there is a link to current water availability at the park.  Typcially each year the streams stop flowing early in summer and are dry until considerable rain fall in the park.  Most larger ponds at the park do have water year-round as well as some springs.  Have a back up plan if a water source you are counting on is not available.

Animal Life
Coe has abundant wildlife that is common to the Diablo Range of mountains.  There are no Black Bears at the park.  Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Black Tailed Deer, Tule Elk, and a wide array of other animals live within park boundaries.  Most animals do not want to get your food, but if you leave it unattended animals may take your food.  Take care to store your food properly and protect the animals here by keeping them from eating your food. 

Suggested Routes
Coe Ranch Entrance:

China Hole
might be the most popular destination in the park.  China Hole is located 5 miles away from the entrance and is 1500' in elevation below the Visitor Center.  The China Hole trail has many switchbacks which reduce the steepness of the climb when you are coming back.  Another popular spot in the park is Los Cruzeros. It is located only another mile east of China Hole. During the rainy seasons when the creeks are full it is recommended to take Poverty Flat Road to Los Cruzeros. During the drier months when the creeks are dry you can walk  from China Hole through the Narrows to Los Cruzeros. Be aware during the summer and fall months there may be no water available at Los Cruzeros.  Another nearby option is to camp at  Madrone Soda Springs which is 1 mile west of China Hole with very little climbing.

Frog Lake is a popular destination and is 1.6 miles from the Visitor Center.  Hobbs road is one of the steepest roads in the park, when returning from Frog Lake hike back Flat Frog Trail to avoid the steep climb.  The total trip distance utilizing Flat Frog Trail is 4.7 miles with 600' of climbing overall.  Two Oaks  is a nearby site that is less than a mile away if Frog Lake is taken when you arrive. 

Poverty Flat is 4 miles away and 1400' in elevation below the Visitor Center altitude.  There are many ways to get there, the easiest way back up to park entrace is via China Hole Trail. 

Pine Ridge has quite a few backpack sites that are often available even on busy spring weekends.  Sierra View Camp has a spring near it and is 1 mile away from the park entrance with a steep short .1 mile climb at the end on Hobbs Rd.  Old Corral and Ridge View sites are less than a mile and an easy hike to get to, perfect for families with small children or as a first or last night on a multi day trip.

Sites beyond the Western Zone are available often, though it is recommened that you plan for an extra night or two to make your trip easier. 

Mississippi Lake is a popular destination but is a strenous hike to get to and from it.  We recommend at minimum 2 nights with 3 days of journey to comfortably camp there.  The south end of the lake is at least 12.5 miles one way with 2100' of climibing and 2700' of climbing on the way back.  If you only have 2 nights and 3 days to go there and back, we recommend having time to travel all the way to the lake on the first day.  Then on the way back you can reduce the amount of climbing by spending the night somewhere on the way back to the park entrance.  Good options are night one, Mississippi Lake, night two Blue Ridge Zone or Los Cruzeros.  Other options are night one Mississippi Lake, night two Willow Ridge Camp. 

Coit Lake is another popular destination and is 8.2 miles one-way with 1605' of climbing to get to.  The return trip if you go the same way has 2100' of climbing.  If you have two nights you can easily do a loop and return via Mahoney Ridge and camp by Mahoney Pond or China Hole.  From Coit Lake to Mahoney Pond you will travel 6.5 miles via Cross Canyon Trail and climb approximately 1000'.  From Mahoney Pond to the park entrance via China Hole Trail you will travel 8 miles and climb 1500'. 

Hunting Hollow Entrance:
Coit and Kelly Lakes
are more accessible for a one-night stay from the Hunting Hollow entrance.  Kelly Lake is at least 6.3 miles with a 1685' climb one-way using the Grizzly Gulch Trail.  Coit Lake is at least 9.3 miles away with a 2320' climb one-way to get to Coit Lake.  There is also 1060' feet of climbing on the way back from Coit Lake going the same way using Grizzly Gulch Trail. 

Pacheco Falls is a sought after destination but we recommed having at least one extra travel day and 2 nights of camping to go there and back.  Pacheco falls is located at least 5 miles round trip east of Coit Lake with approximately 1300' of climbing in those 5 miles.  The falls typically flow until early summer.

Wasno Pond is a less visited small pond near the top of Wasno Ridge. This region of the park is known for excellent California Poppy blooms mainly during spring months. Depending on your route you can get panoramic views from Steer Ridge and Wagon Roads. 

Willson Peak this route is similar to the Wasno Pond route above and takes you atop Willson Peak. Willson Peak has one of the best view spots in the park. On clear days you can see mountains in the Sierra Nevada range as well as mountains beyond Carmel Valley to the south west. Spring wildflowers are quite good here as well as California Poppies.