Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the park?
Over 87,000+ acres, the second largest state park in California.
So if Coe is second largest, what's the biggest state park?
Anza Borrego State Park at over 600,000 acres.
When is the park open?
Open 24/7 year round.
Where, exactly, is Henry Coe State Park?
In the hills just east of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. It is the largest state park in Northern California, right here in your back yard. Henry W. Coe State Park Location!
How do I get there?
Henry W. Coe State Park has three entrances.
Main Entrance: The Headquarters Visitor Center is located at the end of East Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill. Take the E. Dunne Ave exit from Hwy 101 in Morgan Hill and follow the road for 13 miles (1/2 an hour) to the end where you will find the Visitor Center. Henry W. Coe State Headquarters Entrance!
- From Morgan Hill (101) to Henry Coe State Park Headquarters - 13 miles - 36 minutes
- From South San Jose to Henry Coe State Park Headquarters - 26 miles - 46 minutes
- From Monterey to Henry Coe State Park Headquarters - 62 miles - 1 hr; 23 minutes
Hunting Hollow entrance: Located on Gilroy Hot Springs Road, 20 min. east of Gilroy. Hunting Hollow Entrance!
- From Gilroy (101) to Henry Coe Park Hunting Hollow entrance - 9 miles - 18 minutes
Dowdy Ranch entrance: Located on Hwy 152, 6.5 miles east of Casa de Fruta. The Dowdy Ranch entrance is closed until further notice, check the California State Parks website for updates.
- From Los Banos to Henry Coe State Park Dowdy Ranch entrance - 36 miles - 51 minutes
What should I do if I get lost in the park?
A) First, before you leave home, leave your plans with a loved one and tell them when you will be back. If you are not back by that time, have them call the Coe Visitor Center 408-779-2728 or or Call 911.
B) The best strategy is to stay found. Consult your map often and be observant of the trail.
C) If you are close to one of the Coe park outhouses, go there and wait. The outhouses are noted on the official Henry Coe State Park map. The back country ranger checks these outhouses on a regular weekly basis.
- S – Stop walking.
- T – Think. Can you backtrack to your last known position? Do you know where you are on the map?
- O – Observe. Can you see the trail? Do you see a landmark (use your map)? Can you backtrack your own footprints?
- P – Plan. Make a plan. Don’t move unless you have a plan to get back.
E) Draw attention to yourself. Always carry an emergency rescue whistle and use it. (voices get hoarse very quickly). Three blasts means HELP!
F) Text to 911 with your name, the name of the park, and the trail you were on. Sometimes a text message will get through even if there is no voice service.”
What should I do if there's an emergency when there's nobody around?
Call 911 (if cell service available) or Or use the payphone at the Headquarters (HQ) Visitor Center, if the Visitor Center is closed).
Why don't you let dogs in the park?
Dogs are prohibited in the park because Henry Coe State Park is a unique wild area. Dogs naturally mark their territory, and dog scent deters wild-life from inhabiting areas that would normally provide them with food and homes. Dogs can and do bark at and chase wildlife, and on the narrow trails they could be a threat/danger to other hikers. Dogs also attract large predators. For additional information see the answer to the question "Which trail can I take my dog on?"
Which trail can I take my dog on?
Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times, and are only allowed on the paved roads around the headquarters campground and the ½ mile Live Oak Trail, from the entrance parking lot to the headquarters visitor center.
Are dogs allowed at the Tarantula fest or other events in the park?
Dogs are only allowed at events that are held at the visitor center, only on paved areas, and are required to be on leash at all times.
How hot does it get here?
In the summer it can reach over 100 F (38 C) in the park. Always bring plenty of water and always check current conditions on the "Planning Your Visit" webpage: http://henrycoe.net/development/index.php/planning-your-visit. Planning Your Visit!
How cold does it get here?
In the winter it does snow occasionally but the snow doesn't last very long. Check current conditions on the "Planning Your Visit" webpage: http://henrycoe.net/development/index.php/planning-your-visit. Planning Your Visit!
Activities in the Park
What's a good trail for kids?
Suitable trails for kids are the Corral Trail, Live Oak Trail, and the longer Springs Trail. Also a good trail for kids is Hunting Hollow Road, especially in late spring when kids can splash in the creek and see tadpoles, salamanders, and other fun stuff.
Where can I ride my bike in the park?
All the dirt roads are open to bikes, but some single track trails are closed to bikes near headquarters. All single-track trails are closed for 48 hours after a half inch of rain. Call the HQ Visitor Center to check. The Orestimba Wilderness is also closed to bikes; you can’t even walk your bike in the wilderness. Check out Where can I ride!
Always Check out Trail Conditions for updated information.
What can we do at Henry Coe State park?
You can go hiking, camping, backpacking, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, fishing, geocaching, bird watching, and searching for lovely wildflowers.
Can I go on a camping trip with my horse?
Yes, there are designated horse camps. We always advise equestrians to use the Hunting Hollow entrance. Blue Oak horse camp, accessible from park headquarters, is the only-drive in horse camp and the only one that can be reserved, because it provides easiest access for horse trailers.
Are all of you really rangers?
No. There are 5 rangers, 2 park aides, (seasonal) and all the others are volunteers. The rangers have a slightly different uniform, are peace officers, carry guns, and sometimes wear their ‘ranger’ hats!
Can we drink the water from the springs or lakes?
Yes, but all water must be purified before drinking.
Can I hike from the Visitor Center to Mississippi Lake in one day?
The one-way distance to Mississippi Lake is 11.4 miles with at least 3,000 feet elevation change. You can hike there and back in a day but be prepared for a 25 mile hike with approximately 6,000 feet in elevation change. (Only recommended for very experienced hikers.)
Can I drive on the roads in the park?
No. Group campers are allowed to drive, with restrictions, to the Manzanita point group campsites, as are uniformed volunteers working on state-approved projects.
Which is a good trail for strollers?
Near headquarters, the Live Oak Trail, and the Corral Trail are good trails for strollers. Manzanita Point Road, and Hunting Hollow Road are both accessible with strollers. Hunting Hollow Road is only accessible when the creek is dry, which is usually during the summer months.
Where can I go swimming?
There are several pools along the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek, but during summer, most dry up, apart from China Hole. You can swim in the lakes but some are surrounded by reeds.
What are the best places for fishing in the park?
In the back country, Coit Lake, Kelly Lake, and Mississippi Lake are great fishing spots. In the Orestimba Wilderness, several smaller lakes such as Mustang Pong, Wills Pond and Jackrabbit Lake are excellent places to catch fish. Check on the Fishing here!
Do we need to hang food when backpacking?
Not really, but it is good to keep all food off the ground away from squirrels, raccoons etc. and keep it tightly sealed in your pack.
Are drones allowed in the park?
Drones are not allowed in the park, see District Superintendent Orders for more information.
Can I ride an electric bike in the park?
Only class 1 eBikes are allowed on the trails, see District Superintendent Orders for more information.
When is the best weekend to see the wildflowers?
The best weekends to see wildflowers are in the spring, from mid-February into early May, with April being peak season.
Why can't I pick the flowers?
Wild flowers are protected so others can enjoy them, and so the bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and moths can eat the nectar and pollinate them to provide even more flowers to enjoy next year.
Why are there acorns in some of the tree trunks?
A colony of acorn woodpeckers drills the holes in trees called "Granary trees" and stores acorns for food in these holes.
What are those trees with the smooth red bark?
They are either manzanita (small shiny leaves) or madrone (large shiny leaves). See the poster in the HQ Visitor Center.
How many kinds of pine trees are there?
There are two pines in Henry Coe State Park, they are the gray pine and the ponderosa pine.
Why are there so many dead trees?
They could have been killed by the drought (the dead ponderosa pines), insect damage (increased by the drought), and or by disease. Remember deciduous oaks shed their leaves in the fall and appear barren and dead in winter, but they will sprout lovely green leaves in the spring.
What does poison oak look like?
"Shiny leaves of three, let it be". Poison Oak has green leaves in summer, red in late summer and loses all its leaves in the fall. Poison Oak can be a bush or a vine, but always three leaves.
What animals am I likely to see on my hike?
You may see mammals such as deer, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, bobcats and birds such as quail and turkeys, and even reptiles such as snakes and lizards, searching for insects to eat for lunch.
What animal made the scat with all the manzanita berries in it?
Generally, scat loaded with manzanita berries is from a coyote, however deer and gray fox may eat them as well.
Where can I see a mountain lion?
Mountain lions do live in the park, and you could see one almost anywhere, but sightings are rare, although tracks are seen regularly. Chances are, a mountain lion will see you but you won’t see the mountain lion.
What should I do if I see one?
Make yourself look big, wave your arms, open jacket wide open, wave walking sticks. Do not run. Do not turn your back. Always pick up small children. Yell and make very loud noises. Maintain eye contact. Back slowly away.
Are coyotes dangerous?
Coyote attacks on humans are very rare.
Are there frogs at Frog Lake?
Yes, there are and a few fish as well. It is well worth the hike.
Will the wild pigs attack?
All wild animals can be dangerous. Don't approach. Leave them alone.
When is the best time to see a tarantula?
Generally the males are out searching for females in September and October.
How far can tarantulas jump?
From 1/2 inch to a couple of inches, typically only to catch prey.
Are tarantulas' poisonous?
Tarantulas have venom however is not dangerous to humans.
Are there rattlesnakes in the park?
Should we be afraid of rattlesnakes?
They are usually more afraid of us, but always respect them and never try to pick one up.
What do I do if I get bitten by a rattlesnake?
Get emergency help right away. Call 911 is Cell phone service is available. If is not, then Text to 911 with your name, the name of the park, and the trail you were on. Sometimes a text message will get through even if there is no voice service.
Seriously, are there bears at Coe?
No, there are no bears in Coe park. The only bears you will see are on the state flag and on the uniform badges.
How do you remove a tick?
Pull straight out with tweezers, being careful not to leave the head behind. Refer to our handy Tick guide available at the Visitors Centers.
Do ticks carry Lyme disease?
The western black legged tick, is active in winter and spring can carry Lyme disease, but it is less common in other parts of the US. Always do a buddy check after all hikes.
Features of the Park
Do the creeks run year-round?
No, there might be some pools but the creeks do not run year-round. Some springs flow year round. The lakes and most ponds have water year round. Always check the Water Resources page for details and/or call the Visitor Center and ask the volunteer or ranger on-duty.
What is the tallest peak in the park?
The tallest peak is Mount Sizer at 981 m (3,219 ft) but the highest point is on the south slope of Mt. Stakes at 1085 m (3,560 ft).
What special rocks can we see in the park?
You can easily see "ribbon" chert from the Coe Ranch entrance, blueschist from the Dowdy Ranch entrance, and from Hunting Hollow, climb to the Willson Peak area to see serpentinite, the California state rock. Greywacke sandstone is everywhere.
What is the Orestimba Wilderness?
Orestimba Wilderness is a lovely rugged 22,000-acre remote wilderness area in the northeast part of the park.
Was there a fire in the park recently?
The SCU Lightning Complex Fire burned 55,000 acres of Henry Coe Park in 2020. And the Lick Fire burned almost 48,000 acres of the park in 2007.
Where are the redwoods?
Perhaps you meant Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Felton.
History of the Park
Who was Henry Coe?
Henry W. Coe was a cattle rancher and businessman.
What does the "W" stand for in Henry W. Coe?
When was the Coe ranch active working ranch?
The ranch was active from late 1800’s to the early 1950’s.
Who was Sada Coe?
Sada was Henry W. Coe’s daughter. She donated the Coe Ranch to Santa Clara County in 1953.
Did Sada Coe have kids?
Yes, two daughters.
Were there any native Americans living around here?
Yes, the Amuh Mutsun and Northern Valley Yokuts Indians lived in the area that is now Coe Park for thousands of years. Later there were early homesteaders for example: Mahoney, Willson, Dowdy, Robison, Brem, Ryan, Snodgrass, Gill, Coit, Redfern. Their names now mark many features in the park. (Brem Springs, Mahoney ridge, etc.)
How did the Fish Trail get is name?
Ranch hands used this trail to cross Middle Ridge to access the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek to fish.
Did the Coe family live here?
Henry and his wife Rhonda lived in the ranch house for a couple of years while they were working and running cattle on the ranch. Later, when their children, Henry and Sada were born, they moved to San Jose. Sada and her husband Charles Robinson lived here and operated the ranch in the "30s.
Is the Coe Ranch Visitor Center where the Coe family lived?
No, the Visitor Center was designed to resemble the surrounding ranch structures by an architect Sada Coe hired. The Visitor Center was intended, in part, to be a museum to the Coe family. Construction was completed in 1971.
How did China Hole get its name?
No one knows for certain how China Hole got its name. However, the stage coach road to Madrone Soda Springs was constructed by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s--many of whom are believed to have enjoyed this famous swimming hole. When I interviewed one of the Coe neighbors, rancher George Thomas, I asked him how China Hole got its name. He replied that it was rumored one of the Chinese laborers drowned there.
Was there a hotel at Madrone Soda Springs?
Yes it was called the "Madrone Mineral Springs Resort". Hotel guests enjoyed various forms of recreation and drank the water from the spring for its believed healing properties. Guests rode a stagecoach to the resort from the train station in Madrone (from which the springs get their name). It was a very popular destination in the 1800's.
Are there springs at Madrone Soda Springs?
No, not any more, they dried up as the result of earthquake activity.
Reservations at the Park
How do I make a reservation to car camp or group camp?
California State Parks has moved to a new reservation system to make it easier for you to reserve camping and lodging sites. For more information, such as FAQs, please visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com. Reserve California!
You can reserve a specific site in the Coe Ranch Campground (drive-in), Manzanita Point hike-in Group Camps, Poverty Flat hike-in Group site, and two drive-in horse camps. To make a reservation you need to create a username account for free with Reserve California. There is a partially refundable reservation fee of $7.99 per reservation. For further details visit General Rules and Fees and Cancellation
What do I do if I have a camping reservation and the visitor center is closed?
The site you have reserved is set aside for you with a reservation sign at the site. Go ahead and find your site and register the next day at the visitor center. It is important to register, unregistered or unoccupied sites that are reserved for 2 days can be sold at noon the next day. For more detailed rules information refer to this page. Camping Information!
How many people and vehicles are allowed at drive-in Campsites?
State park drive in style campsites allow up to 8 people per site at any time and can usually accommodate at least 2 cars. When you occupy a campsite 1 vehicle is included in your camping fee per night, any additional vehicles for that site must pay an additional vehicle fee at the park per night, and must park in a day-use parking spot
Where can I park my additional vehicle if it can't fit at my campsite?
After paying your additional vehicle fee, you are welcome to park the vehicle in any available day-use Parking spot. You cannot park in an adjacent campsite even if it is unoccupied; you would have to pay the camping fee for that site if you park there.
When can I have a fire in the fire rings?
Wood or Charcoal campfires are only permitted when fire conditions allow it. Fire conditions change throughout the year at the park and at any time fires can be banned with no advanced notice. Prepare to be able to cook your food with a gas stove in case fires are banned. Wood and Charcoal fires usually banned from June to November. Remember, collection of firewood is prohibited and you must provide your own wood.
Why are vehicles restricted at the Manzanita Point Group Campsites?
Manzanita Point Road is a dirt ranch road that is not built or safe to allow unrestricted vehicle traffic. The road is subject to weather closures and has sharp blind turns on it where you can encounter other park visitors unexpectedly. We appreciate your cooperation when you visit the park which helps all visitors to safely enjoy the park.
Do I need a permit to backpack at Henry W. Coe State Park?
Camping permits are required. Currently at the Coe Park Visitor Center you can obtain permits inside as well as at the self registration station when the visitor center is closed. At Hunting Hollow Entrance there is no Visitor Center, so fill out the Self Registration Fee Payment envelope. Include your name, phone number and vehicle license number.
Can we build a campfire when we're backpacking?
No, ground fires are not allowed however camp stoves are ok. Wood or charcoal fires are never allowed in the back country of Henry W. Coe State Park. Campfires are allowed in fire rings at Coe Ranch Campground and Manzanita Point campsites only. You must provide your own firewood. Gathering of wood is prohibited. You can use a gas stove to cook with in the back country and also when campfires are banned in fire rings.
Where can I find water when I am in the back country?
Non-potable water is available throughout the park from ponds, creeks (when flowing), and springs. Larger ponds have water all year, creeks dry out in summer typically, and some springs dry out late in the summer. All back country water must be purified. Always check Water-Resources! to obtain the latest information on water availability.
I want to have a special event at the park. How do I get permission to do that?
Many groups have utilized Henry W. Coe State Park for special gatherings and events utilizing our facilities and beautiful scenery. Special events that use facilities, impact the park, have large groups of people, or are not usual park activities require a Special Event permit. You must contact park staff at least a month ahead of your potential event to give us time to assess your event and process the permit. Fees vary depending on the number of people and how many facilities are used at the park during your event and the duration of your event. You are required to submit a $50 non-refundable fee with your filled out Special Event permit for us to consider your event. Insurance coverage may be required for your event. Please contact the park at (408) 779-2728 and a park staff person will contact you regarding your potential event.