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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Bell Station to Raven Pond– Henry W. Coe – 22-mile overnight, strenuous
- Pacheco State Park – 10.4 miles, easy
For more state park adventures, visit our California State Park Guide.