Kelly Lake: Henry W. Coe State Park

Henry W. Coe State Park is notorious for its massive calf-wrenching hills and hot hot heat. This trip was no exception.

We headed to the park for a 24-mile over-nighter  to Kelly Lake expecting mild, fall weather. Unfortunately, the day brought on high temperatures and plenty of direct sunlight. At the Coe, spring, fall, and winter feel like summer, and summer feels like the inside a volcano.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area One of the many spectacular views that the park has to offer.

One of the many spectacular views that the park has to offer.

Day One: Main Entrance to Kelly Lake via Manzanita Point Road – 12 miles, strenuous

Entering the park through the main gate, you can obtain your permit at the Ranger Station. We headed down Corral Trail which connects the trailhead to Manzanita Point Road. We followed the road to China Hole Trail which we descended to reach the East Fork Coyote Creek.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area The trail follows along the creek but we walked down the dry creek bed. The shade provided by the canyon walls is a rare treat.

The trail follows along the creek but we walked down the dry creek bed. The shade provided by the canyon walls is a rare treat.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area Sharon stumbles on a climb over a "rock wall".

Sharon stumbles on a climb over a “rock wall”.

Once reaching the creek, follow the creekbed. The trail seems to head up the other side but what you will see are just use trails. Bottom line, if you are trying to go through The Narrows, just head down the creek bed which is dry during the summer months.

After the heat of the morning, The Narrows are a welcome reprieve. They provided shade, much cooler temperatures, and different terrain. The trail zigzags back and forth along the creek but we simply chose the path of least resistance through the middle of the creek bed. A few pools of stagnant water remained and we startled a coyote using this precious resource.

After a while of cool walking, head up and out of the shade to Willow Ridge Road. You will see Coit Lake which looks desolate. From here, head to Kelly Lake. this area is less visited than areas more accessible from the parking lot.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area A view of Kelly Lake from above.

A view of Kelly Lake from above.

Unfortunately, Kelly Lake was very busy. With no available spots along the lake, we found what had to do as a tent spot just past the bathroom along Coit Road.The wild turkeys were kind enough to vacate the area for the night but returned in the VERY early AM with an impolite wake-up call.

Day 2: Kelly Lake to Main Entrance via Coit and Mahoney Meadows Roads, 12 miles, strenuous

We tried to wake early, with the turkeys, but failed miserably. The air was too chilly and frosty so we huddled well into the morning. Starting late, 10 AM, meant we would have to deal with the heat of the day and we quickly began to regret our morning laziness. Always try to start area in this park. Note to future hikers: with lake levels low during the dry season the water is murky in Kelly Lake. Pour it through a handkerchief before running it through our filter to avoid clogs.

california; henry w. coe state park; lake; san francisco bay area The fall colors reflect in Kelly Lake.

The fall colors reflect in Kelly Lake.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area I just really liked the mass and color of this tree.

I just really liked the mass and color of this tree.

The hike out of the canyon via Coit Road and Mahoney Meadows Road is steep. Once you hit Poverty Flat the walk becomes easy for a few miles. Then the hard part begin; 2 miles and 1,400-unrelenting feet. Finished along Manzanita Point Road and the Corral Trail.

Henry W. Coe State Park wears us down when you are in the best of shape.

Unfortunately, we are in not in the best of shape so Henry W. Coe ground us up and spit us out. It took 2 days to walk right again.

california; henry w. coe state park; san francisco bay area The trail as we neared the end of our hot and steep trip.

The trail as we neared the end of our hot and steep trip.

When heading to Henry W. Coe State Park, always remember to bring more water than you think you need, wear lots of sunscreen, and mentally prepare for steep grades.

Other Henry W. Coe State Park and Area Hikes

For more state park adventures, visit our California State Park Guide.

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