One of the California State Parks system's great gems, Henry W Coe State Park is comprised of over 87,000 acres of gorgeous, rugged country. Though the park sits less than an hour from San Jose, one of America's largest cities, it offers solitude and an escape into a western wilderness. Steep hills, placid lakes, vast oak groves, sweeping vistas and fields of vibrant wildflowers await visitors here.
Henry W Coe also has a trail system to match its size - the park boasts over 250 miles of trails and old ranch roads. There are numerous back-country campsites open to hikers, trail riders and bikers alike. Over a dozen ponds and lakes offer excellent fishing opportunities, if you're willing to hoof it; most fishing spots are (at least) a good day's hike from the nearest road. Naturalists and photographers will enjoy the park's diverse wildlife and wildflowers. The latter put on a tremendous, colorful display on the grassy slopes of the park's hills every spring.
Visitors flock to Henry W Coe year-round, but spring and fall are the most popular seasons. Summer is gorgeous but can bring oppressively hot weather, which only adds to the difficulty of the park's many strenuous trails.
Though many primitive walk-in campgrounds are available, Henry W. Coe boasts only one campground suitable for RVs and trailers. This 20-site campground accepts reservations up to six months in advance - visitors are advised to take advantage of the reservation system if they plan to head to the park during its busy spring season or during any weekend.
Henry W. Coe has several different entrances, and various parts of the park can be accessed via roads off of US-101, CA-152 and CA-130. The most popular way into the park is by E. Dunne Avenue. After branching off of the 101, E. Dunne snakes for about thirteen miles up to the park's main entrance (the visitor center and campground are located just past this entrance). Access routes to the park and roads within the park can be steep and sharply curved in sections. Travelers, especially those with trailers or RVs, should take extra caution while driving these roads, especially in rainy weather.
Though the park has a remote feel to it, it sits only about 20 miles east of San Jose, as the crow flies. You need not head all the way into the city for amenities or supplies, though; Morgan Hill, a full service town, is just a 13 mile drive from the park's campground.
Once you've arrived at the campground, parking shouldn't pose much of a challenge (as long as you are below the suggested length limits). Spots have ample space between them, and though they are all back-in, maneuvering should be easy with a small RV or trailer. A few trailheads are accessible from the campground, but because the park is so large, the rest are not within walking distance. Ample parking is available at day-use areas and trailheads throughout the park, though.
Henry W. Coe has over a dozen back-country campsites, offering visitors the chance to escape into some montane solitude. For RV and Trailer campers, the park sports just small campground, though it is a gorgeous one. The Coe Ranch Campground, which sits atop a 2,600' ridge, has 20 sites. Some sites offer lovely views of the surrounding country and others are shielded by stately groves of oaks.
Camping at Coe Ranch is primitive, with no electric, water or sewage hookups. There are, however, potable water spigots and vault toilets available. The campground is located right by the entrance and visitor center, and it also offers quick access to several trailheads.
Reservations can be taken for sites up to six months in advance. Because this is the park's only campground suitable for RVs and trailers, it can fill up fast, especially during weekends.
(Note: There are also a couple camping areas in the park where equestrians can bring horse trailers. However, the roads to these spots are very tricky to traverse with a trailer, and there are several additional camping restrictions at these sites. This discourages most visitors from trailer horse camping, though it is still possible. You can call the park for more info on specific locations, road conditions and restrictions.)
Over a dozen lakes and ponds are scattered across the rugged country hills of Henry W. Coe State Park. Almost all are located in the back-country and must be hiked to - most, in fact, are remote enough that they'll require a night or two of camping as well. But what Coe's angling spots lack in accessibility they make up for in remote beauty and great fishing. Bluegill, green sunfish, rainbow trout, bass and black crappie are among the more commonly found species at the park. Spring brings mild weather and is usually considered the best time to head out on a fishing expedition - try to avoid mid-summer, which can be oppressively hot.
Rich pastures, ranges of steep hills, tall oak groves and sweeping vistas await hikers and backpackers at Henry W. Coe. Hiking is one of the park's most popular activities, and with good reason; over 250 miles of trails and ranch roads offer access to all corners of this massive reserve. Visitors looking for a truly quiet experience should head towards Orestimba Wilderness Area, where motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited. Trails range in difficulty from gentle to extremely strenuous. Regardless your skill level or the trail you end up taking, make sure to take plenty of water.
Henry W. Coe's wild spaces offer year-round opportunities for wildlife viewing. Elk and mule deer frequent the park's grass-rich slopes, and even mountain lions can occasionally be seen. Black-tailed jackrabbits, coyotes, raccoons, badgers and grey foxes are commonly sighted, as are a wide variety of bird species, including Stellar's jays, acorn woodpeckers, California quails and western bluebirds. Herpetofauna can be spotted along trails by discerning eyes; horned lizards, gopher snakes, western rattlesnakes, California kingsnakes and western newts are just a few of the species which call the park home.
The diverse and often rugged topography at Henry W. Coe makes for some excellent mountain-biking. Though the wilderness area, and a few other trails, prohibit bicycle use, there are nonetheless well over 200 miles of trails which bikers can enjoy. Even hardcore bikers will be able to push their limits on some of the park's extremely challenging trails. The prevalence of back-country campsites means bike-camping is an option too. Be sure to take plenty of extra water, especially if you're pedaling under a blistering summer sun.
Henry W. Coe's extensive network of scenic equestrian trails makes the park a trail-riders paradise. Soak up sweeping panoramas that evoke the old, wild west; and on exceptionally clear days, you can see the Pacific to the west and the Sierras to the east. Many riders plan their trips for fall or spring, when the weather is milder (and easier on horses!). Several back-country horse-camps, which require riders to pack in, are available, and there are plenty of equestrian staging areas throughout the park, too. Saddle up and sleep under the stars - what could be better!
From January through April, cool rains shower the hillsides and grasslands of the park. By early spring, previously drab fields are alight with the dazzling colors of millions of wildflowers. Many species contribute to the vibrant, diverse display; blue lupine, California poppies, Mariposa lilies, larkspur, baby blue eyes, whispering bells and dozens more all make their colorful debuts, each adding a different hue. Hikers, riders, bikers and photographers alike can enjoy the park's impressive floral show.