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9 Reasons To Visit The Second Largest California State Park

Imagine a place where you can explore miles of untouched nature right in the heart of California. 

Welcome to Henry W. Coe State Park, the second-largest state park in California. 

In this post we’re uncovering 9 reasons you NEED to visit this state park in California.

With its vast expanse covering over 87,000 acres in Northern California, this park offers a true adventure for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or just looking for a peaceful place to relax, Henry W. Coe State Park has something special for you. 

Some of these landscapes will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the English countryside.

We’ve included useful links throughout the post and at the end in the useful information section.

Before we get to the 9 reasons, where is this state park?

Where Is It?

Henry W. Coe State Park covers 87,000 acres of the Northern California landscape.

It covers areas in both Stanislaus and Santa Clara counties and includes part of the Diablo Range.

The closest town is Morgan Hill and it’s less than 1 hour from downtown San Jose with no traffic.

Now for the 9 reasons to visit this park...

1. Hike And Explore Beautiful Landscapes

At Henry W. Coe State Park, you can find a trail that’s perfect just for you, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker. 

For an easy stroll, try the Corral Trail, a gentle 2-mile path that offers stunning views without much effort. 

If you’re up for a challenge, the 7-mile Frog Lake Loop will test your stamina with its steep climbs and rewarding panoramas. 

There are also longer trails like the Coit Lake Loop and the Blue Ridge and Mount Sizer trail. 

As you trek through the park, you’ll wander through diverse landscapes—from lush grasslands dotted with wildflowers to dense oak forests and open hilltops. 

Each trail offers a unique glimpse into the varied terrain that makes this park a favorite for hikers of all levels.

2. Witness RARE Wildlife

There’s an elusive animal that calls this place home and it’s one of the reasons people come here for the wildlife. 

The California mountain lion is what we’re talking about. 

They live in the park and tracks are seen regularly but actual sightings are quite rare.

However there’s lots of other wildlife you can look forward to spotting.

As you walk quietly along the trails, keep your eyes peeled for the deer grazing in the meadows or the coyotes that might cross your path. 

Early mornings or late afternoons are the best times to spot these creatures as they are most active during these hours. 

Don’t forget to listen for the calls of wild turkeys or watch for hawks soaring overhead. 

To maximize your chances of seeing wildlife, bring a pair of binoculars and stay on marked trails to minimize your impact on their natural habitat.

3. Year-Round Camping To Calm The Soul

Henry W. Coe State Park is a great day trip destination, but it’s also a fantastic place to camp under the stars. 

And there’s nothing better than camping to calm the soul from the stresses of life.

You can choose from several campgrounds, like the popular Manzanita Point, which offers a variety of sites among towering trees and quiet serenity.

Although Manzanita Point is a hike-in campground. 

If you don’t want to hike to your campsite you can drive-in to Coe Ranch Campground located on top of an open ridge at 2,600 feet. 

It boasts views across the ridges and canyons of the backcountry and into the southern part of Santa Clara Valley.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try backcountry camping. 

You’ll need a permit, which you can get at the park headquarters, and be ready to pack in all your supplies, including water. 

Remember to follow all park rules to keep your impact on the environment minimal. 

Camping here lets you wake up surrounded by nature’s beauty, and it’s an experience you won’t forget. 

Whether you pitch a tent or set up a hammock, you’re in for a peaceful retreat.

4. Seasonal Events That You CAN’T MISS

Every season brings a new reason to visit Henry W. Coe State Park. 

In the spring, the hills are alive with colorful wildflowers, making it a perfect time for photography. 

henry w coe state park wildflowers
henry w coe state park wildflowers

As summer heats up, the park’s higher elevations offer cooler temperatures ideal for exploring.

Come fall, the changing foliage paints the landscape in vibrant colors, providing a beautiful backdrop for longer hikes. October is normally the best month for this. 

fall colors henry w coe state park

Winter, often mild, allows for crisp walks and clear, starry nights perfect for camping. 

The park also hosts various events throughout the year, such as guided nature walks and educational programs that help you learn more about the area’s natural history and wildlife. 

Keep an eye on the park’s calendar to join in on these special activities.

5. Thrilling Mountain Biking

For mountain biking enthusiasts, Henry W. Coe State Park offers some thrilling rides. 

The Middle Ridge Trail is a favorite, known for its challenging climbs and thrilling downhill sections. 

Beginners might enjoy the flatter, more forgiving Live Oak Trail, which still offers beautiful scenery with much less technical difficulty. 

Before you hit the trails, make sure your bike is in good condition, and you’re familiar with mountain biking etiquette, especially on shared trails.

Always wear a helmet, carry plenty of water, and let someone know your route. 

Whether you’re a seasoned biker or just starting, the park’s diverse trails provide a fantastic way for you to challenge yourself and enjoy the outdoors.

6. Channel Your Inner Cowboy/Cowgirl With Horseback Riding

Imagine exploring Henry W. Coe State Park from the unique vantage point of a horseback! 

Several trails are open to horseback riding, offering you a fantastic way to cover more ground and experience the park’s natural beauty. 

These trails offer a mix of flat terrains and gentle slopes, ideal for both beginners and experienced riders. 

horse riding henry w coe
Henry W Coe – Pine Ridge Association

Spring is generally the best time to ride with one of the reasons being the water conditions.

In spring, the creeks are full of water, making them easy to cross for both horses and hikers. 

However, in winter, what are normally calm streams can become swift and uncrossable torrents following heavy rainfall. 

horse back riding

During the summer and fall, the creeks and several springs typically dry up.

Riding through the park, you’ll have a chance to see wildlife and panoramic views creating lasting memories of your adventure in the wilderness.

7. Challenging Fishing

Henry W. Coe State Park is also a great spot for fishing but you can’t drive up to any of the lakes or creeks.

This means it can be a challenge to get to fishing spots so it feels like even more of a reward when you catch a fish.

You’ll have the chance to catch bass, green sunfish, crappie, and bluegill in its lakes and ponds.

And if you’re lucky you might even catch a rainbow trout in Coyote Creek or the South Fork of Orestimba Creek.

The park’s ponds and lakes, such as Coe Lake and Mississippi Lake, are popular spots where you can try your luck at catching various species of fish. 

But both of these places require 22-23 miles of hiking to get there and back from the Park HQ.

For nearby lakes you’ll want to head to Bass Pond and Frog Lake which are both less than 5 miles from the HQ.

A valid California fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16. 

8. Unbelievable Photography

Henry W. Coe State Park is a must-visit for landscape and nature photographers.

For the best shots, head to viewpoints like Pine Ridge or Monument Trailhead during the golden hours—shortly after sunrise or before sunset—when the light is soft and vibrant.

These spots offer sweeping views of the park’s vast landscapes and are perfect for capturing the dramatic changes in light and shadow. 

But to be honest you’ll probably find lots of picturesque locations pretty much anywhere in the park – especially if you come during spring when the wildflowers bloom.

Always stay on designated paths and respect the natural environment around you. 

Don’t disturb wildlife or damage plants just for a photo. 

9. Taste REAL Adventure By Backpacking

If you’re up for an adventure, backpacking in Henry W. Coe State Park is a must-do!

With its rugged terrain and vast landscapes, the park offers a true backcountry experience.

You might feel like the only person in the world in the peaceful wilderness.

Start your journey at the park headquarters and consider tackling the Blue Ridge Trail, a challenging route that rewards you with breathtaking views.

Remember, you’ll need a permit for overnight stays, which you can obtain at the entrance station.

Be sure to pack plenty of water, especially since sources can be scarce in the dryer months.

henry w coe summer dry

As you carry everything on your back, packing light but efficiently is key.

This experience is perfect for those who love solitude and the thrill of exploring deep wilderness.

Useful Visitor Information

Before you head out to Henry W. Coe State Park, here are some essential details to help you plan your visit. 

The park is located at 9000 E. Dunne Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA 95037 but there are three entrances to the park:


  • Coe Ranch Entrance
  • Hunting Hollow Entrance and Coyote Creek Gate
  • Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center (accessed from Bell Station Entrance)

-> More information about park entrances

It’s open year-round, from sunrise to sunset, so you have plenty of time to explore its vastness. 

If you’re planning to camp or explore some of the backcountry areas, you’ll need to obtain the necessary permits.

Permits are available at the park’s main entrance or can be reserved in advance.

Reservations for camping are highly recommended, especially during the peak season from spring to early fall. 

Make sure to check out the FAQ page on to get answers to frequently asked questions.

Useful links for more information:

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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