Duration: 2 days
Distance, elevation gain/loss:
one way, via China Hole Trail: 7.8 miles, +760/-1500 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 Mahoney Zone or Lost Spring
• China Hole - popular swimming hole
• The Narrows - scenic rocky canon of East Fork Coyote Creek. May be impassable in high water
• Mostly forested trails
• Ridge top camping, great for watching sunrise, sunset and for stargazing
Elevation - one way
From the visitor center, take Corral, Forest, and China Hole trails. The China Hole Trail continues on the other side of the creek, gradually ascending to the crest of Mahoney Ridge.
The 2.1 mile climb from China Hole to Mahoney Ridge takes you through mixed forest of oak and bay trees with few sunnymeadows in the upper section. Wildflowers are abundant in spring.
The trail emerges out of the forest by an outhouse, at the junction with Mahoney Meadows Road and Lost Spring Trail. This junction marks the border of Western (designated sites camping) and Mahoney (dispersed camping) zones.
If you plan to camp at the Lost Spring Camp, take Lost Spring Trail for 0.3 mile to an unnamed trail to the campsite.
Otherwise, continue south on Mahoney Meadows Road and look for a place to camp.The nearest camp is only a few hundred feet away, on your right, on the edge of a large meadow.
Another great spot is about 0.7 mile south on Mahoney Meadows Road, on the left side, at the flat grassy area in the open grove of blue oaks, just above Mahoney Pond.
Mahoney Zone offers some of the closest dispersed camping to park headquarters. Enjoy great views, sunset, sunrise and starry sky. Listen to chorus of frogs at Mahoney Pond. Watch the bats after sunset and hear the owls calling at night. You’re unlikely to see another soul while camping here.
Take Lost Spring Trail and the lower Mahoney Meadows Road (the upper part descends into the “Mahoney Trench” and climbs very steeply back out of it) down to Los Cruzeros.
Continue downstream through the Narrows. When at China Hole, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
The Narrows is a 1-mile long stretch of East Fork Coyote Creek between China Hole and Los Cruzeros without an established trail.
Expect uneven ground. In the wet season, wade in the water or climb over large rocks or push through the brush.
However, it is well worth the effort, since the scenery is spectacular, wildflowers bloom late into summer, and you may see frogs, garter snakes, turtles and killdeer.
Camping in Mahoney Zone
Camp anywhere along Mahoney Meadows Road south of the junction with China Hole and Lost Spring trails.
Depending on where you camp, the nearest water source is either Lost Spring or Mahoney Pond.
Camping at Lost Spring
No sign mark the turn to the campsite. Look for the 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 will find a campsite with 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.