7.2 mile out and back at the Hunting Hollow section of the park. Very
good wildflower displays in spring.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 7.2 mile out and back hike is one of the park's easiest, with
only about 300 feet in elevation change. Coe is a huge park with some
very tough hikes. Beware of some exceptionally steep trails that depart
from this trailhead: you really need a good map if you plan on setting
off into unknown territory.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Late winter and spring are pleasant; avoid the park during heat waves.
From US 101 in Santa Clara County, exit Leavesley. Drive east about 1.8
miles to the junction with New Avenue and turn left (you'll be following
the brown parks signs for Coyote Lake County Park). Drive about 0.5 mile
and turn right on Roop Road, then continue about 6.5 miles (past Coyote
Lake) to the signed Hunting Hollow Trailhead on the right side of the
Get driving or public transit
directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google
Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Large dirt parking lot. Two pit toilets. No drinking water. $6 entrance
fee per vehicle (there's a $8 day use fee at the park's main entrance).
There are two good maps under glass at the information signboard, but
on my visit there were no paper maps available. No designated handicapped
parking, and trails are not wheelchair accessible. There is no direct
public transportation to this trailhead.
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants back on Leavesley in Gilroy. The
park has extensive backcountry camping options, and a small, developed
campground at the park headquarters area.
Most trails are multi-use. Some restrict bikes. From the Coe Parks website:
"Dogs are not allowed on any of the hiking roads or trails, but the
headquarters area has about a half mile of paved roads where dogs are
allowed and it has a lovely, shady half-mile trail between the Visitor
Center and the entrance parking lot where you can take your dog for a
walk. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times, and the leash must be
no longer than 6 feet."
The Official Story:
Coe Park website
(don't even bother with CSP's page; this website is excellent).
Park office 408-779-2728
Map choices and more info:
Use AAA's Monterey Bay Region map to get there.
Order the Pine Ridge Association's excellent trail map: send $7.00
(or $10.25 for the plastic version) to Pine Ridge Association/Map Request
9100 East Dunne Ave., Morgan Hill, CA 95037
maps and books Coe site has an extensive catalog of gorgeous park
photos, and lots of other info.
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
View photos from this
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
you know Coe? Serious bay area hikers and backpackers
will listen carefully when this question is uttered in their presence.
The uninitiated or indifferent might respond with an echoing question
of "what," "where," or even "who?" Some
non-hikers realize it's a park, but confuse it with one of the other south
bay "name" parks such as Joseph Grant or Ed Levin. A former
Coe employee and park volunteer says more common blunders are to confuse
Henry Coe with Henry Cowell (although the parks are many miles apart,
the names are similar), and to mistake Lake Anderson for Coe, as the
road to Coe passes by that county park. Coe veterans will regale listeners
with tales of frog and coyote serenades, star-filled night skies, and
week long backpacking expeditions. Other outdoor fanatics just don't know
about the toughest, largest park in the bay area. Coe, with 80,000 acres
(the biggest state park in northern California), became part of the state
park system in 1958. The park is former ranch land, and many trails are
old ranch roads. Most people visit the park
headquarters (about 8.5
miles north of the Hunting Hollow Trailhead), reached by East Dunne Avenue
near Morgan Hill. The park headquarters trailhead offers a visitor center
with bookstore and history exhibits, car camping, and access to the park's
most popular dayhiking and backpacking trails.
Numerous ponds, springs, creeks, and swimming
holes throughout the park provide fishing opportunities and the chance
to cool off on a hot day. China Hole, Coe's most popular swimming hole,
is the halfway point on a 10-mile loop on Madrone Springs and China Hole
Trails. Other day hikes beginning at headquarters feature views of the
Santa Clara valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains, groves of ponderosa pines,
gigantic manzanitas, oak-studded hillsides, and Sada Coe's monument to
her father. Hike possibilities are nearly limitless at Coe; there's a
book's worth of material here, but lacking that your best bet is to obtain
the park map and start exploring.
The Hunting Hollow Trailhead has few amenities,
but provides ample parking and 24 hour access. Hunting
Hollow Road is almost perfectly flat and is a good, easy introduction
to Coe. Since it's an out-and-back hike, it's suitable for kids or older
folks: just turn around when you get tired. If you seek a long challenging
hike, or a backpacking excursion, you can begin either at Hunting Hollow
Trailhead as well. There's a 8-mile loop to Willson Peak that climbs from
about 900 to 2651 feet, combining Lyman Willson Ridge Trail and Steer
Ridge Road/Trail. Unless you plan the simplest hike (out and back on Hunting
Hollow Road) make sure to bring plenty of water, and obtain a map in advance.
When I visited there were no maps at the trailhead, and as many trails
are unmarked, you risk the very real possibility of getting lost in this
Spring is the peak season to visit. If you like
colorful landscapes, wildflowers are bountiful in late winter and spring,
and in autumn the leaves of deciduous oaks are conspicuous. Coe gets pretty
hot in the summer. If you visit Hunting Hollow in winter or spring, wear
waterproof boots; Hunting Hollow Road crosses the creek every chance it
gets (the park website says 18 times, but I didn't bother to count). At
most crossings you'll can hop across on strategically placed rocks, but
the water can be deep enough to reach your ankles if you must trudge through
(and it's cold).
Start at the east end of the parking
lot. Walk around a gate onto Hunting Hollow Road, a broad,
dirt trail open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists. Right away you'll
encounter your first creek crossing. An easy to miss junction with Steer
Ridge Trail is on the left. Sycamore trees line the creek, and their leaves
litter the ground at most crossings. Once on the other side of the creek,
you'll pass through the first meadow, which in late winter may be dotted
with popcorn flowers, baby blue eyes, and fiddlenecks. Rolling hills,
dotted with coast live and deciduous oaks, creep uphill to the north.
On the right side of the trail, you might see lots and lots of gooseberry,
as well as California coffeeberry and snowberry. As you pass through this
broad valley, Hunting Hollow Trail settles on a theme: cross a creek then
bisect a meadow. Rinse and repeat. The grade remains almost completely
flat. At about 0.76 mile, at a signed junction, a trail departs towards
Camp Willson on the left side of the trail. Continue on Hunting Hollow
A windmill sits off to the right side of
the trail just past the junction. This grassland has been infested with
yellow star thistle, and the park seems to be combating the weed by mowing
some meadows. Spring's fresh green grass is augmented by lots of wildflowers,
including great patches of baby blue-eyes, creamcups, fiddlenecks, popcorn
johnny-jump-up, and johnnytuck. Squirrels have constructed elaborate burrows
under oaks and across the meadows, so you will probably see plenty of
the scampering bushy tailed animals near these colonies. Look in the dirt
for deer, coyote, and bobcat tracks, and be aware that wild pigs are sometimes
spotted as well. At about 1.8 miles (I'm guessing, because I didn't have
a map and wasn't sure where I was), a well-worn path heads uphill to the
left. The junction is unmarked, but the trail is a viable one, climbing
to Phegley Ridge. If you happen to be hiking in spring, you might climb
a few feet up the trail, and look to see what flowers are blooming. On
my visit in late winter, there were lots of johnny-jump-ups, the first
blue-eyed grasses of the year, and the tail end of the shooting stars'
bloom. These shooting stars are Padre's shooting stars, different from
the more common bay area mosquito bills. Padre's have light colored stems,
while mosquito bills' are purplish. When ready, continue on Hunting Hollow
The hills begin to close in on the road,
squeezing a broad valley into a canyon. In late winter, there are extravagant
displays of shooting stars on the sides of the trail. Hunting Hollow Road
begins a slight ascent. During the rainy season, look for a tiny waterfall
and pool on the left side of the road. California bay trees mix in with
oaks. At about 3.6 miles, Hunting Hollow meets Wagon Road at a signed
junction. Hunting Hollow actually continues straight to the park boundary,
but this is the turnaround point for this hike. (Option: take Wagon Road
uphill to Phegley Ridge Road, and then descend to Hunting Hollow Road
on Phegley Ridge Trail. This extension will add about 2.5 miles to your
day, and involves an over 1000 foot ascent.)You're likely to hear frogs
croaking melodically from the nearby creek, and as I sat and rested I
repeatedly heard gobbling from wild turkeys in the surrounding hills.
When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: about 7.2 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, March 13, 2001