Due to Covid-19 precautions, the Backcountry Weekend will be scaled down this year. We will NOT be offering group activities, such as guided hikes and horseback rides, wildflower walks, and bird watching strolls.
While the Covid-19 pandemic is showing signs that it's on the decline and vaccines are being widely administered, we are remaining vigilant. We are working closely with California State Park Staff to monitor the situation and will take appropriate action if the situation changes.
Backcountry Weekend 2021 is sold out.
For one spectacular weekend this spring, Henry W. Coe State Park will open the gate at Bell's Station on Highway 152 east of Gilroy and allow registered attendees to drive along Kaiser-Aetna Road beyond the Dowdy Visitor Center. The Coe Backcountry Weekend, held in the little-traveled east side of the 87,000-acre park is scheduled for April 23 - 25, 2021. The event is sponsored by the Pine Ridge Association and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians have a unique opportunity to see and enjoy an area isolated from the park's Morgan Hill entrance by long distances and rugged terrain. The east side of the park has beautiful spring wildflowers, great fishing, and scenic trails, some with breathtaking panoramic views of the Diablo Range. The ridges and valleys are broader and easier to travel than the steep terrain in the western part of the park, and you can plan trips to areas that normally require several days of strenuous backpacking, places like Mississippi Lake and the Orestimba Wilderness.
We will NOT be offering park maps or other materials at the event this year. We strongly recommend that you purchase your park map here.
Impact of the August 2020 SCU Fire on Coe Backcountry
Last summer’s massive SCU Lightning Complex Fire burned approximately 56,000 acres of Henry Coe Park, or roughly 2/3 of the park, making it the largest fire in the park’s history. Fire is a normal part of a healthy ecosystem, and while there were some unrecoverable losses, State Parks staff believe the fire will prove to be good for the park. Backcountry campers, however, should be prepared to find a mix of substantially burned areas alongside areas showing little or no fire damage.
The special SCU Fire Special Edition of the Ponderosa Newsletter provides more extensive information on the fire’s impact on the park.
Two Night Camping Only
To keep contact between the public and park volunteers to a minimum, we will only be offering the two-night camping option this year. Car campers, backpackers, and equestrians will enter the park on Friday and exit on Sunday. The Bell’s Station Gate will be open on Friday from 9am until 6pm for registered attendees with parking passes to enter. The gate will be open on Sunday from 9am until 6pm for event attendees to exit.
Note that, due to commuter traffic, it can take more than 2 hours on a typical Friday afternoon to reach the Bell's Station gate from South San Jose. Allow ample time to arrive BEFORE 6pm. The gate will close at 6pm!
Backpackers and car campers may park anywhere along the Kaiser-Aetna Road between Center Flats Road and County Line Road with the exception of the Pacheco Creek Crossing area. Equestrians must drive in to the Orestimba Corral Horse Camp.
Due to ecological concerns and past creek bed damage, only vehicles with high clearance (8” or higher) will be allowed into the Orestimba Corral area (one mile beyond County Line Road). Vehicles that do not meet the clearance requirement will be parked along Kaiser-Aetna Road near County Line Road.
Everyone must be on their way out from the Orestimba Corral or County Line Road areas by 5pm on Sunday in order to make it to the Bell's Station gate by 6pm.
We will not be offering shuttle service this year.
We will not be offering a commemorative T-shirt this year.
Rules and Guidelines
- Due to Covid-19 safety requirements, this year there will be no evening campfire, interpretive events, or guided activities.
- No dogs or other pets are allowed.
- No open fires, barbecues, or hibachis allowed. Use backpacking or camp stoves only.
- Firearms are not allowed.
- Please do not pick wildflowers. All plants, animals, and features of the park are protected.
- If you fish, anyone over the age of 16 must have a fishing license and everyone fishing must comply with the State Fish and Game regulations. We encourage catch and release with barbless hooks.
- There will be no sales of snacks, beverages, maps, or any other products at the event.
- A park map will be essential during your visit to the park. We strongly suggest that you bring the Henry W Coe State Park Trail and Camping Map (2013), available for purchase here. Free downloadable maps are also available on the Park Maps page.
- Bring all the food and beverages you will need.
- Bring sunscreen and insect repellent (ticks are very common) and watch out for poison oak.
- Potable water will only be available at the Orestimba Corral. If not camping close by, bring all the water you will need.
- All water in the backcountry (springs, streams, and lakes) should be purified by filtering, chemical treatment, or other method before consumption.
Driving and Parking in the park
- You are only permitted to drive on Kaiser-Aetna Road. All other roads are closed to vehicle traffic.
- Camp trailers and motor homes are not allowed.
- Once you have parked your vehicle at your campsite or backpacking parking area you will not be allowed to move your vehicle until you leave the park on Sunday.
Orestimba Corral and Horse Camp
- Only campers with a permit for the Orestimba Corral or Horse Camp will be allowed past the County Line Road Junction. This section of road requires a high clearance (minimum 8”) vehicle.
- Horse trailers traveling to the Horse Camp should be hauled by a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.
- Stallions are NOT allowed
Backpackers and Kaiser-Aetna Road Car-Campers
- Backpackers and campers with a permit for Kaiser-Aetna Road are allowed to park along Kaiser-Aetna Road between Center Flats Road and County Line Road with the exception of the Pacheco Creek Crossing Area. Kaiser-Aetna Road within 300 feet of Pacheco Creek Crossing (culvert) is closed to parking. Camping within 300 feet of the Kaiser-Aetna Road - Pacheco Creek Crossing culvert is not allowed.
- Your vehicle must stay on the side of the road and cannot block the flow of traffic.
- If you park near the County Line Road junction, please use the designated parking spaces.
- Bicycles are permitted with the following exceptions. Bicycles are NOT allowed:
- Anywhere in the Orestimba Wilderness, including the Alquist Trail
- Orestimba Creek Rd. north of the Kingbird pond trailhead
- Mustang Cutoff in the downhill direction
- Orestimba Creek Trail
- Only class 1 eBikes are allowed in the park.