Duration: 2-4 days
Distance, elevation gain/loss:
one way, via Willow Ridge Road: 11.7 miles, +1800/-2280 feet
return via Mahoney Meadows Road: 14.1 miles, +2410/-1930/feet
Trailhead: Park Headquarters, at the end of East Dunne Avenue
Permits/fees: Backpacking permit and parking fees required; register at visitor center when open or self-register for Coit Lake (and Willow Ridge/Lost Spring/Mahoney Zone for multi-day trip).
• China Hole - popular swimming hole
• The Narrows - scenic rocky canon of East Fork Coyote Creek. May be impassable in high water
• Steep climbs/descents
• Coit Lake - swimming, fishing
• Remote Kelly Cabin Canyon. Lightly used trails may be obscured by brush, tall grass, fallen trees
• Panoramic views from Willow Ridge
Elevation - round trip
Take Corral, Forest, Manzanita Point Road and China Hole trails.
Cross Coyote Creek and continue through the Narrows.
Just past Los Cruzeros, look for the sign ‘Willow Ridge Trail’ on the right. The trail ascends steeply through mixed forest, chaparral thickets and open meadows.
Watch for Willow Ridge Spring on your right, in the shade of bay trees. Camp at Willow Ridge, or continue uphill for 0.3 miles to the signed junction with Willow Ridge Road.
For 4 miles, follow the road, a roller coaster with many steep short grades, very little shade and great panoramic views.
At the Coit Dam Road turn left to descend to the west shore of Coit Lake.
Return to Willow Ridge Road. Take Cross Canyon Trail through mixed forest (watch for encroaching poison oak) down to Kelly Cabin Creek and up to Mahoney Ridge.
Continue north on Mahoney Meadows Road, gently rolling through open grassland dotted with oaks.
At the junction by the vault toilet, take Lost Spring Trail (to get water, or to camp at Lost Spring) or China Hole Trail (to return on the same day).
You may choose to camp mid-point on the way in and/or out, at Mahoney Pond, Lost Spring or Willow Ridge.
The Narrows is a 1-mile long stretch of East Fork Coyote Creek between China Hole and Los Cruzeros without an established trail. To avoid wading in the water in wet seasons, use Cougar Trail/Poverty Flat Road instead.
Camping at Coit Lake
The lake is mostly surrounded by reeds. The following locations have flat ground and access to water:
• by the north end of the dam
• by the south end of the dam, couple hundred feet behind the vault toilet
• in the secluded cove along the south shore, on fishermen trail (room for 1 tent)
• on the road, on the south side of the lake, by a vault toilet and picnic table with ramada
Camping at Willow Ridge
Willow Ridge Spring usually flows until mid- summer. Watch for encroaching poison oak near the spring. Take unnamed 0.1 mile trail to the spacious flat area under large oaks, overlooking canyon of Coyote Creek and Mahoney ridge. No picnic table and no vault toilet.
Camping at Lost Spring
Look for unmarked narrow side trail on the west side of the Lost Spring Trail south of the spring. A couple hundred feet from the main trail you’ll find a campsite with a secluded opening and a picnic table. Large coast live oaks provide deep shade. Spring water is available at reliable Lost Spring, located on Lost Spring Trail 0.3 miles north of its southern junction with Mahoney Meadows Road.