Bill’s Hill and More: Henry W. Coe State Park

Bill’s Hill and Kickham Ranch Unit Office: 10 miles, 1,600 ft of gain (moderate)

Note: This hike includes cross-country travel. Make sure you have a good map, a decent sense of direction, and know how to use both.

Note: Beginner Mountain Bikers: Hunting Hollow Road is very scenic and relatively flat. It’s a great place to practice.

Having moved out of the South Bay Area, one of the places we miss the most is Henry W. Coe State Park. As we’ve said time and time again through our write-ups of our forays into this park, it’s a shining gem of the area, and yet it’s not as heavily utilized as parks such as Big Basin Redwoods State Park. I think most people appreciate the towering redwoods, but maybe it takes a different mindset to appreciate the rugged, sometimes barren, and often sweltering hot landscape that make up this park. Whatever the reason, we’re glad the park isn’t always packed with crowds of visitors as the potential for solitude is, for us, a major draw.

Sharon; california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area Sharon looking over the land, standing in a field of vetch.

Sharon looking over the land, standing in a field of vetch.

So when we had errands to run in the South Bay, we throw some sleeping bags and hiking essentials in the back of the Jeep, got our chores done, and headed to the Hunting Hollow Entrance. Paying the $5 per person, per night, backcountry camping fee, we slept in the back of the car, anxious to start our hike early in the morning. The parking lot is not a campground, so please don’t pitch a tent next to your car. There’s also an $6 day-use fee at this entrance which you must pay regardless of if you’re camping or not. For your convenience, there’s a self-registration kiosk in the parking lot. Alternatively, you could order an annual pass with CA State Parks.

While we’ve visited many remote corners of the park and we’ve started multiple hikes from Hunting Hollow, we somehow never followed Hunting Hollow Road to the end. That was our goal.

california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area; trees The day was cloudy, but this tree would have been a great shady spot on a typical hot Coe day.

The day was cloudy, but this tree would have been a great shady spot on a typical hot Coe day.

Kickham Ranch; california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area Last leg of our cross-country trek down to Kickham Ranch.

Last leg of our cross-country trek down to Kickham Ranch.

Most of our visits occur while the park is very dry, so it was pleasant to see that the creek through Hunting Hollow had plenty of water flowing. The wildlife must also have been fond of the water because we were able to observe a bobcat, a pocket gopher, and a newt. Most impressive was the array of wildflowers. We later met a couple who counted 22 different species.

We happily sauntered along the flat, wide road, taking in all the spring life, until we came across a large cairn. It seemed out of place and it marked no obvious path. Curiosity got the best of us and we decided to check it out. We found a path and confirmed it to be the un-signed Bill’s Hill Trail. Likely a former road, the trail was heavily overgrown. The 1,100-foot climb was rather steep at times and, since we couldn’t see where the trail was, the footing was rather uneven through the tall grasses and carpets of flowers.

california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area Beautiful pink shooting stars on a backdrop of green grass and yellow flowers.

Beautiful pink shooting stars on a backdrop of green grass and yellow flowers.

california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area More dew covered fiddlenecks.

More dew covered fiddlenecks.

california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area A patch of vetch under a tree.

A patch of vetch under a tree.

The tall grasses were tick ridden at best. I counted at least 12 that I had to flick off my pants. Somehow Sharon didn’t have a single one on her. We were also very cautious not to accidentally step on any rattle snakes that may have been hiding in the grass.

Hint: Read up on tick safety before heading out. Wear long pants and shirts, know how to remove them, and learn about Lime Disease. Check out this CDC webpage.

We ended up having to cross through barbed wire fences several times, we were fairly sure that these must be remnants of the past, but private property boundaries are near by so we only crossed when absolutely necessary and stuck as close to the fence as possible.

california; flowers; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area Old man

Old man’s beard and wildflowers combine forces for a magical wonderalnd look.

The view from Bill’s Hill is rather obscured, but you do get a nice look down into Cañada de los Osos.

Not wanting to backtrack through the tick mine fields, we decided to go cross-country towards the Kickham Ranch Unit Office. Follow the ridge (or our GPS track) and eventually you’ll see the park office and old ranch structures.

Hint: When going cross-country, keep your eye on the price and plan a few possible routes while up high.

california; henry w. coe state park; hiking; san francisco bay area Half a double-wide at the Kickham Ranch Unit Office. Former office? Park residence?

Half a double-wide at the Kickham Ranch Unit Office. Former office? Park residence?

From the park office, you can follow Wagon Road and Hunting Hollow Road back to the car. You can choose to add an extra 0.3 miles to take the Gibson Trail “scenic bypass” if you prefer hiking on trail over fire road.

For more adventures in CA State Parks, check out our Agency Page.

Other Henry W. Coe State Park Hike and Backcountry Trips:

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