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Duration: 2 days

Difficulty: strenuous

Distance, elevation gain/loss:

one way, via Jackson Trail: 8.1 miles, +2020/-1040 feet

return, via Willson Peak: 9.1 miles, +1620/-2600 feet

Permits/fees: Backpacking permit and parking fees required; self-register for Kelly Lake

Trip highlights

• Kelly Lake - swimming, fishing

• Steep climbs and descents

• Vast panoramic views

• Spectacular spring wildflowers

• Wildlife watching - may encounter coyotes, bobcats, wild pigs and hawks. Coots, ducks and red-winged blackbirds are frequently seen by the lake.

Kelly Lake 

Elevation - roundtrip

Route

From Coyote Creek Gate, follow Coit Road along the creek, to Anza Trail. Turn right. The information board tells about Anza expedition of 1775-1776.

Follow Anza and Jackson trails, ascending at a moderate to steep grade through mixed bay and oak forest. Enjoy great variety of spring wildflowers in shady groves and sunny meadows.

The trail opens up as you reach the ridge crest at the junction with Elderberry Trail. Elderberry Spring, reliable at all but driest years, is on your left, couple hundred yards away.

Continue climbing on Jackson Road. In late spring, enjoy a showy patch of grand linanthus right on the trail.

Continue towards Wasno Road. Gorgeous panoramas open up, as Jackson Road sharply turns north.

This fairly level stretch of the road, adorned in spring with orange poppies and blue lupins, is one of the highlights of the trip.

When at Wasno Road, turn right, and in 0.4 miles take Kelly Lake Trail on the north side of the road.

Kelly Lake trail descends steeply (could be slippery in dry season) to the west shore of Kelly Lake.

Return route

Return to Wasno Road and turn left (east).

Walk along the rolling ridge to Tule Pond Trail, turn right and descend to Grizzly Gulch

Water is available from the Tule Pond and, early in the season, from the creek.

Take Serpentine Trail and ascend through meadows and open oak woodland.

The trail joins Steer Ridge Road near Willson Peak. On a clear winter day, the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen from this high point.

Take rolling Steer Ridge road and gradual Jim Donnelly Trail to return to the trailhead

Camping at Kelly Lake

Lake is mostly surrounded by reeds. Best access to water is from the north shore.

Flat ground is limited to 2-3 small groups.

There is an outhouse on the Coit Road, couple hundred feet west from the lake.

The best camp sites are:

• an open meadow on the north shore.

• a small grassy area near the south side of the dam

• a grassy meadow near the beginning of Kelly Cabin Creek Trail. From the dam, walk to the outhouse and then 0.1 miles on Coit Road, following the creek downstream.

Water sources

• Elderberry Spring (0.1 miles off the route) - year round at all but driest years

• Kelly Lake

• Wasno pond (0.3 miles off the route)

• Tule Pond

When Hunting Hollow has high water

On return trip, if Hunting Hollow Creek is impassable after heavy rain, you can scramble along the hillside from the concrete bridge on Gilroy Hot Springs road to Steer Ridge and Jim Donnelly trails.

Volunteer!

Coe Park Volunteer

Are you interested in learning more about Henry W. Coe State Park and sharing your knowledge with park visitors? How about helping out with annual events or maintenance of springs and trails? If so, visit our Volunteer page.

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