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California Trails

San Jose, CA: Henry W. Coe State Park

Escape into the Bay Area’s backcountry on this weekend excursion through the scrub-brushed hillsides and pine-dotted meadows of Henry W. Coe State Park.

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On this 24-mile, two-day trek through the 86,000-acre Henry W. Coe State Park, you’ll cruise through spectacular, arid hill country en route to the cool waters of Mississippi Lake. The park’s western entrance is just an hour outside of San Jose, but frontcountry campsites are available at the park’s entrance if you want to spend two nights in the park. From the visitors center, head east on the Corral Trail to get started.
The hike’s first 3.5 miles descend from rolling ridgelines to low-lying valleys, with scenery punctuated by golden, overgrown meadows, scrubby vegetation and tough trees. After traversing through some of the lowest terrain of the hike between miles 3.5 and 5.5, you’ll hit a one-mile climb along the Willow Ridge Trail. The relatively straight-shot upward features nearly 1,400 feet of elevation before culminating at a Y-junction along Willow Ridge Road. From here, you’ll push through another four miles of brush-blasted, big-sky hill country before reaching Mississippi Lake. Camping is available anywhere around the lake, and a well-maintained bathroom (no running water) is situated near the lake’s southeastern corner. The trip back to the trailhead traces much of the same route, but deviates with trips on the Pacheco Creek Trail and the Forest Trail.
Finding water on extended backpacking trips through the park is tricky: Make sure to start with at least 3 liters. Overnight parking costs $8 and backcountry permits cost $5 per person. For more information on backpacking in the park, visit Henry W. Coe’s Web site.
-Mapped by Luke Lempark


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 38.6
  • Miles from city center: 34



Location: 37.186079, -121.545256

The Headquarters Campgrounds offers developed campsites near the park’s entrance and Corral trailhead.


Location: 37.186666, -121.546817

Begin by heading east on the Corral Trail. Make sure to have full water bottles before starting: water is available at the visitors center.


Location: 37.185339, -121.539817

At the Y-junction, bear right to stay on the Corral Trail.


Location: 37.184792, -121.538519

The Corral Trail follows Manzanita Point Road for nearly a mile.


Location: 37.181249, -121.526835

At Y-junction, bear left on Poverty Flat Road. Manzanita Point Road bends to the south.


Location: 37.181256, -121.504548

At the T-junction, bear right to stay on Poverty Flat Road. Middle Ridge Trail forks left to cross Coyote Creek, which is dry during late summer and fall.


Location: 37.180065, -121.499981

Bear right to bypass the Cougar Trail and stay on Poverty Flat Road.


Location: 37.179531, -121.498986

Bear right to stay on Poverty Flat Road and bypass the Creekside Trail.


Location: 37.179288, -121.48554

Bear right to stay on Poverty Flat Road. Jackass Trail spurs to the left.


Location: 37.178907, -121.482927

At Y-junction, bear right to pick up Mahoney Meadows Road. Poverty Flats Road bends to the left.


Location: 37.174746, -121.47881

Turn left to pickup the Willow Ridge Trail. The Mahoney Meadows Trail, which forks to the right, leads to three campsites within 0.3 mile.


Location: 37.174947, -121.477592

Bear right to stay on the Willow Ridge Trail. Over the next mile, you’ll climb nearly 1,400 feet.


Location: 37.169285, -121.459745

Turn left to pick up Willow Ridge Road.


Location: 37.173568, -121.455982

Bear right to stay on Willow Ridge Road.


Location: 37.172243, -121.450735

Bear left at the Y-junction to stay on Willow Ridge Road. Your climb ends here.


Location: 37.188664, -121.438504

Bear left to stay on Willow Ridge Road.


Location: 37.192087, -121.428784

Bear left to stay on Willow Ridge Road.


Location: 37.193314, -121.42581

Bear right to stay on Willow Ridge Road.


Location: 37.198249, -121.424321

Bear left to stay on Willow Ridge Road. The right fork leads to Bear Mountain Peak.


Location: 37.198275, -121.4207

Turn right to head south along the shore of Mississippi Lake. There is an outhouse 0.1 mile down the trail.


Location: 37.197313, -121.41967

A well-maintained bathroom (sans running water) is situated along the lake’s southern shore.


Location: 37.197303, -121.420145

Camping is permitted anywhere around the lake. On Day 2, begin your trek back to the trailhead by retracing your steps to HCW017.


Location: 37.192019, -121.42873

Turn left at the Y-junction to pick up the Pacheco Ridge Trail. The right fork leads back to Willow Ridge Road. Both paths lead back to the trailhead, but Pacheco Ridge serves up fresh scenery.


Location: 37.189425, -121.428489

Bear left to stay on Pacheco Ridge Trail.


Location: 37.18239, -121.431649

Take the left fork to stay on Pacheco Ridge Road.


Location: 37.176971, -121.429868

Turn right at the Y-junction to pick up the Canteen Trail.


Location: 37.175064, -121.437603

Trail becomes narrow and faint after crossing Canteen Creek.


Location: 37.174021, -121.440221

Bear left at the Pacheco Creek Trail.


Location: 37.169418, -121.439779

Bear slightly right to follow the Rat Spring Trail.


Location: 37.172107, -121.450682

Connect to Willow Ridge Road and retrace your steps to HWC005.


Location: 37.181185, -121.526073

Turn right to duck into the woods on the Forest Trail. This shady detour brings you back to the Corral Trail at HWC003.


Location: 37.185331, -121.539656

Turn right to follow the Corral Trail back to the trailhead.

Corral Trail

Location: 37.187015, -121.545589

The hike’s first 0.6 mile trace the Corral Trail.

Lightning Rod

Location: 37.184889, -121.538861

Pass this lightning-burnt tree while heading east on Manzanita Point Road.

Wild Turkey

Location: 37.181861, -121.52425

Wildlife is abundant throughout the park.

Brush-Scrubbed Hillsides

Location: 37.180389, -121.511472

Walk through light woods and brush-topped ridges on Poverty Flat Road.

Coyote Creek

Location: 37.181111, -121.502694

The seasonal Coyote Creek flows only in the spring.


Location: 37.181222, -121.502083

Make sure your sleeping bag is tarantula-free before buckling down for the night!

Poverty Flat

Location: 37.180167, -121.500083

Poverty Flat Road

Location: 37.17825, -121.4955

Fall Colors

Location: 37.178611, -121.490806

Golden meadows and green leaves characterize early fall in Northern California.

Lone Tree

Location: 37.178361, -121.482222

Pass through tree-dotted golden fields on Mahoney Meadows Road.

Rocky Outcropping

Location: 37.175833, -121.478389

Pacific Gopher Snake

Location: 37.175333, -121.478139

Small Pacific Gopher Snakes are common in arid, scrub-brushed areas under 2,000 feet.

Rocky Terrain

Location: 37.174833, -121.478722

Willow Ridge Trail

Location: 37.176472, -121.475194

Upward Spiral

Location: 37.17375, -121.469361

The Willow Ridge Trail carries the hike’s longest climb.

Looking West

Location: 37.173083, -121.468167

Looking west down the Willow Ridge Trail.


Location: 37.169389, -121.460167

Meadows intersperse with light forestland in Henry W. Coe State Park.

More Fall Colors

Location: 37.173417, -121.451194

The park’s shrubs turn red, gold and orange during early fall.

Wrecking Ball

Location: 37.176861, -121.449583

Of the world’s unexplained archaeological mysteries, the Henry W. Coe State Park wrecking ball ranks just between Stonehenge and the heads at Eastern Island.

Willow Ridge Trail Panoramas

Location: 37.185389, -121.442556

Mississippi Lake

Location: 37.198292, -121.424122

Mississippi Lake comes into view just past the junction with Bear Mountain Trail.

Mississippi Lake

Location: 37.197452, -121.419329

View from southern shore of Mississippi Lake.


Location: 37.197294, -121.419925

Flat spots to pitch a tent are located around the lake’s southern shore.

Pacheco Ridge Trail

Location: 37.191111, -121.428389

Canteen Spring

Location: 37.174, -121.440167

Water is available here, but it is recommended that you treat it before drinking.

Rat Spring Trail

Location: 37.169861, -121.442611

Nearing The End

Location: 37.185587, -121.538905

Heading back to the trailhead from the Forest Trail.

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