Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center
The Dowdy Ranch entrance is closed until further notice, check California State Parks website for updates.
The Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center site (elevation 1,670 feet) includes a visitor center, restrooms, drinking water, an equestrian staging area, shade ramadas, and picnic tables. There are great views looking east and north to the hills of the Diablo Range. The landscape looks almost exactly as it did when early explorers like Juan Bautista de Anza traversed it in 1775. The few signs of human presence in this remote and beautiful area are old ranch roads on the ridges and a scattering of stock ponds that were once used by the cattle that roamed these peaceful hills. Stock ponds in Coe Park and are now enjoyed by wildlife as well as hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, and equestrians and their horses.
There are several trails leading out of the Dowdy Ranch area and hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, and equestrians can enjoy visiting the Pacheco Creek drainage, Burra Burra Peak, remote ponds, and even Coit and Mississippi lakes. Hikers, equestrians and backpackers can also explore the Orestimba Wilderness. Getting to know this remote area of the park will involve long hikes and rides with some steep elevation changes. Trails are often rough and signposting is limited, so visitors should plan to carry a park map (available for purchase in the visitor center), a compass, wear sturdy boots if walking, and carry lots of water, more water than you think you'll need, or a water purifying device, especially in warm weather.
Due to the presence of animals protected by the California Endangered Species Act, camping is not allowed within one-half mile of the Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center.
Hours of Operation
Please see Dowdy Entrance at CA.gov
Dowdy Ranch visitor center and the Bell's Station gate at Hwy 152 will be closed Monday - Friday.
Gate may close on Sat/Sun at 4:30pm if there are no vehicles in the lot when the visitor center closes.
Any day use vehicles parked in the Dowdy parking lot after sunset can be ticketed and will be locked in overnight. Backpackers may choose to start their trip on one weekend and end on the next, however, their vehicle will be locked in during the week of the trip.
Be aware the Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center is at the end of a 7 mile unpaved road that can be closed if conditions are not safe for vehicle travel. For example, the road may be closed if there is significant rainfall within 2 days of opening.
When the Visitor Center is staffed, fees are collected at the registration counter. Otherwise, there is a fee collection station in front of the Visitor Center. See the Park Fees page on the California State Parks website for current fee information.
All fee transactions at the Dowdy Visitor Center are CASH ONLY. Please bring exact change. There is no provision for conducting credit card or other electronic transactions and checks are not accepted.
Weather conditions at this entrance vary throughout the year. During the dry season temperatures may reach over 100 degrees Farenheight. Creeks and springs in the area are seasonal and most dry up causing water sources to become unreliable. Please be prepared for hot weather by carrying enough water and food for your visit. For local weather conditions go to NOAA Spot Forecast for Dowdy Ranch Entrance or the Orestimba Creek weather station.
The Dowdy Ranch visitor center is situated in the southeast corner of Coe Park. It is accessible from Highway 152 at Bell's Station via Kaiser-Aetna Road.
Bell's Station is located 6.5 miles east of the Highway 152/Highway 156 junction. If you're driving east from this junction, look for the left turn lane and indicate your intention to turn left well in advance. The sign along eastbound 152 has fallen down and Cal-Trans has not gotten around to fixing it yet. You'll first see a high rock outcrop on the south side of Highway 152, then the old white Bell's Station building on the north side of the highway. Move into the left turn lane and turn very carefully across oncoming westbound traffic. If you're traveling west from Interstate 5, the Bell's Station turnoff is approximately 22 miles from Interstate 5. Again, look for the old white Bell's Station building on the north side of Highway 152 and turn north at Bell's Station. If you miss the turn into Coe Park at Bell's Station traveling from either direction, proceed to the next safe place to turn around, which might be three or four miles.
The distance from Bell's Station to the Dowdy Ranch visitor center is seven miles. The road is unpaved, quite rough in some areas, a somewhat steep climb in the lower reaches, and has many turns and bends. Drive slowly and enjoy the gorgeous views opening up on all sides. Beware of dust and slow down if a vehicle approaches from the opposite direction. The road is safe to drive in 2WD vehicles, but carry a spare tire and extra water just in case. Plan on 30 minutes each way for the trip. There is no parking along the road until you reach the Dowdy Ranch area. The speed limit is 25 mph except in some areas where it is posted15 mph.