Henry W. Coe: The Largest State Park in Northern California


Henry W. Coe State Park, located outside of the Morgan Hill/Gilroy area, is the largest state park in northern California at 89,164-acres. In the fall, the park's fall foliage truly shines and after even the limited amount of rain we've received this year, the hills were hinting at green. Though I've lived up in the SF bay area for nearly twelve years, I've always avoided Henry W. Coe because I thought it would be boring, barren brown hills with the occasional stand of trees to take shelter from the sun under. But Henry Coe surprised me with its stands of Ponderosa pines, silvery shimmering fields of native California grasses, and mountain vistas. Getting There

We went from San Jose south on 101 and exited at East Dunne in Morgan Hill. Take a left after exiting the freeway and take East Dunne up the hill and into a swank neighborhood bordering Lake Anderson. Be careful to watch street signs up here; it's easy to take a wrong turn and end up on a private road. This curvy, nearly single lane road up to the East Dunne entrance and visitor's center is fun for people who enjoy driving, but I wouldn't try taking your RV or motion sickness prone compatriots up there.

There are apparently other entrances, but this was the closest to San Jose and according to the website it has the most amenities.

The Trail

While there are stands of trees, most of the trails are steep and exposed, so this is definitely not a park to visit in the summer, early fall, late spring, or the random month of summer that always happens in February. We hiked from the Visitor Center at Coe Ranch Headquarters along the Corral Trail to Springs Trail. The single track trails are well maintained as are the fire roads. There was a controlled burn earlier in the week and the ground was still smoking in some areas. The up and down was steady in this area, but not overly steep. Other areas of the park have some apparently gnarly hills that are great for mountain biking.

Overall I would love to go back to Henry W. Coe for a longer visit. There's backpacking camps and swimming holes that still need exploring.