A mere two hours from the Bay Area, Henry Coe State Park is easily one of the most magical places I have ever backpacked. Being the largest State Park in Northern California its vast wilderness had no problems keeping us busy for a sunny, rainy, and overall unique five day Henry Coe backpacking trip.
Arriving at the park we had no idea which route we wanted to emark upon. When we showed up to the main visitor center (headquarters), the ranger there was extremely helpful in suggesting the route outlined below. If you are the type who likes to plan ahead give them a call at (408) 779-2728 and visit their website here to predetermine your route, as well as find out the latest trail conditions.
We spent our first 2 nights camped at Manzanita Point, less than 3 miles from the park headquarters. We arrived late in the afternoon and wanted a place to stay relatively close by that night. We were pleasantly surprised by the Manzanita Point campsites. It was spacious, had privacy, toilets, a central water tank, and even group campsites. This seemed like an ideal place for families to camp, it is even accessible by car, for all of you glampers out there.
On our third morning we made a four mile trek to Miller Field, a dispersed camping area. Do not be fooled by the short distance, getting there was hard. The 1.1 miles stretch dubbed, “The Narrows” had at least 6 river crossings. We opted to do the stretch barefoot, in the hopes of keeping our boots dry (if we had been wearing sneakers we may have chosen differently, although we are barefoot-type people.) With sore and wet feet we finally found a campsite, just as it started drizzling, ending two days of fantastic weather.
It has been said, “Don’t go to Henry Coe to train for the Sierras, go to the Sierras to train for Henry Coe.” The elevation gains on our fourth day supported that statement. With switchbacks lacking, getting to the top of the Blue Ridge Road trail was grueling. Once we reached the top (after roughly a mile of near vertical) we were rewarded with two miles of relatively flat trail walking along the ridge. We reached our campsite, Upper Camp, five miles from our previous nights campsite. This was another stellar campsite with a rushing river alongside it (the same Coyote river we crossed the day earlier, downstream). On our final day we had a three mile hike back to headquarters, the first mile was another testament to the above saying about Henry Coe, it was very uphilly.
Henry Coe backpacking is an all around fantastic choice whether you are looking for a challenge or want a nice place to camp with your family. The best times to visit are Spring and Fall, their Winter and Summers tend to be very extreme.
Thinking about doing some Henry Coe Backpacking?
Visit their official website to learn more and check out this sweet trip review by Backpacking Light. Looking for more adventures on the other side of Northern California? Check out this trip I made to the Trinity Alps.