With annual visitation of fewer than 40,000, Northern California’s largest state park (87,000 rugged acres) offers loads of privacy—particularly in its steep backcountry. Hike nine miles into the park to earn ridgetop views of wooded slopes and a serene campsite above a small backcountry reservoir. First, avoid company on lesser-used but lush Madrone Soda Springs and Mile Trails to reach the relatively popular swimming holes along Coyote Creek’s East Fork. Then, at mile 5.6, start the calf-burning climb up narrow Willow Ridge Trail—1,200 feet over 1.6 miles, with more false summits than switchbacks—to earn your privacy. Of the four lakes accessible from Willow Ridge, one-acre Hoover, off an easy, unmarked trail, is least-visited—unless you count the lark sparrows, goldfinches, and other songbirds that flutter among its blue oaks and gray pines. In September, the evergreens offer a shaded respite from the waning summer heat.
-mapped by Nate Seltenrich
- Distance: 29.9
Location: 37.186613, -121.546846
Trailhead/Parking Lot – Start Day 1 on Corral Trail
Location: 37.185344, -121.539695
Going out, take Spring Trail
Location: 37.181031, -121.52617
Take Manzanita Point Road
Location: 37.174208, -121.51612
Turn right onto the lesser-used Madrone Soda Springs Trail
Location: 37.166451, -121.513512
Continue to Mile Trail. Expect numerous stream crossings ahead. There’s a campsite here as well if you want a short day.
Location: 37.169336, -121.508556
Dilapidated old cabin
Location: 37.172186, -121.496539
Continue to China Hole Trail. Stay low; don’t head uphill.
Location: 37.17261, -121.495854
Take a dip in a great swimming hole.
Location: 37.173382, -121.494904
Going out, at stream junction, follow canyon on your right. This section of unmarked trail is known as The Narrows — follow your way through the canyon until it opens up at a mile and you meet the next trail marker on your right. Numerous stream crossings.
Location: 37.173571, -121.490665
Find another swimming hole to cool off in.
Location: 37.174012, -121.481432
Site: Los Cruzeros. Water + rest site + alternate camp 2
Location: 37.174117, -121.481216
Keep to your left on narrow trail
Location: 37.174779, -121.480831
Alternate Camp 3
Location: 37.175112, -121.480092
Alternate Camp 4
Location: 37.175365, -121.480121
Swimming Hole 3
Location: 37.174798, -121.478758
Take Willow Ridge Trail
Location: 37.174963, -121.477617
Continue on Willow RidgeTrail. Follow straight up hill – at the Y, stick to the right. Ascend 1,200 feet over 1.6 miles, with more false summits than switchbacks.
Location: 37.171759, -121.461935
Water access to your right
Location: 37.169315, -121.459732
Turn right on Willow Ridge Road
Location: 37.152984, -121.450143
Turn left on the unmarked Hoover Lake Trail
Location: 37.156386, -121.446977
Destination Campsite. Of the four lakes accessible from Willow Ridge, one-acre Hoover, off an easy, unmarked trail, is least-visited—unless you count the lark sparrows, goldfinches, and other songbirds that flutter among its blue oaks and gray pines. In September, the evergreens offer a shaded respite from the waning summer heat.
Location: 37.181183, -121.526088
Coming back, take Forest Trail
Location: 37.187242, -121.547398
End Day 2 – Parking Lot
Lunch and rest spot
Location: 37.16637, -121.513467
Dilapidated old cabin
Location: 37.169311, -121.508489
China Hole swimming pool!
Location: 37.172611, -121.495807
The Narrows – stick to your right
Location: 37.173397, -121.494863
Stick to your left at this junction
Location: 37.174116, -121.481152
A more private swimming hole
Location: 37.175227, -121.480122
Hoover Lake Trail junction – unmarked
Location: 37.153003, -121.450154
Hoover Lake North
Location: 37.155695, -121.448608
Hoover Lake South
Location: 37.154451, -121.446795
Rolling hills and native oaks
Location: 37.174714, -121.49791
Looking out over Henry Coe ridgelines
Location: 37.17615, -121.510162