Route: Henry Coe State Park Perimeter Loop (CA)

Submitted by chihpingfu on Thu, 04/22/2021 - 11:31pm
California, US
80 mi
Vertical Gain
18,000 ft

Route Type: A single loop.

Distance: 80 Miles (TBD)

Vertical Gain: 18,000 ft (TBD)

Surface: ??% single track, ??% dirt fire road, about 50 meters on asphalt road with little traffic around Coe HQ.

Henry Coe State Park is the largest state park in Northern California and the second-largest in California. With 88,000 acres, it has endless scenic hills and lofty mountain ridges separated by steep canyons. The terrains are diverse and rugged with several features, including springs, ponds, lakes, gulches, creeks. With 250 miles of single trails and dirt fire road, the paradise is open around the clock for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. Once the home of Ohlone Indians, the park is now home to a fascinating variety of plants and animals, including the elusive mountain lion. Within Coe Park are the headwaters of Coyote Creek, long stretches of the Pacheco and Orestimba creeks, and a 23,300-acre wilderness.

Despite only 10 miles from nearby cities and Silicon Valley, the park is very remote. In the supported effort, all the support crew has to hike in over challenging terrains for many miles from entrances. Therefore, there is essentially self-supported effort and people have to be familiar with any survival scenarios.

Coe Perimeter Loop. I have many wonderful routes in Coe, all single loops with minimal or no repeated trail. Coe Perimeter Loop, or CPL, is a great one. It is a single 80-mile loop that follows the official trails from the park map along the park boundary. CPL is true to the heart of any adventurer or ultra trail runner. From my many years of mountain running experience, I believe this is a hidden gem and a premier FKT route in the Bay Area, in California, or even in the country.

It can be started from either one of the two major entrances, Coe HQ or HH. Here is the location for car navigation,

Coe HQ. Use “9000 E Dunne Ave, Morgan Hill, CA 95037”, $8 day use fee or $13 a night.
HH. Use “Hunting Hollow Entrance”, $6 day use fee or $11 a night.

Variations and BCL

Besides two entrances to start the single loop, the route can go in either direction, clockwise and counterclockwise. Of the totally 4 variations, I personally think HH CCW is the best for the following reasons,

  1. Driving to HH is easier. Driving to Coe HQ involves a longer and more winding road.
  2. Parking at HH is a little bigger with slightly fewer cars. That is, it’s more spacious.

Regardless, the key is to get through the 9-mile obscure trails in the remotest Orestimba Wilderness in daylight. See the Turns Sheet (in the References below) for details. So choose your start point, direction, the start time, and most importantly, prepare plans B, C, D in case you run into difficulty in navigation or can’t get through the remote area in daylight.

Independently, there was an excellent page to describe such a route called Big Coe Loop (or BCL below) - It starts from Coe HQ in the clockwise direction. There are some differences between CPL and BCL,

  1. BCL starts from Coe HQ in the clockwise direction, while CPL recommends the HH start in the clockwise direction. I think both are good. Starting from Coe HQ may be more legit, but I personally prefer driving to HH.
  2. BCL doesn’t stop by Coe Monument, only 0.1 mile away. In CPL, I’d suggest people stop by and pay the tribute to Henry W Coe who offered such a paradise for us.
  3. In the remotest Orestimba Wilderness, BCL turns from Mount Stakes Trail to Pinto Creek and later connects to Orestimba Creek Rd. In CPL, the route will stay on Mount Stakes to reach the highest point of the park at 3,600 ft. Then it follows closely the park boundary back to Orestimba Creek Rd. This is a pretty challenging section in CPL due to the remoteness and obscure paths of the area.
  4. At Wagon Rd, BCL turns to Hunting Hollow Rd, while CPL continues to turn at Gibson Trail and connects to Hunting Hollow Rd. This is closer to the boundary.  
  5. Leaving Hunting Hollow Entrance and climbing to Steer Ridge, BCL uses Jim Donnelly Trail (or JDT)  instead of Steer Ridge Trail used by CPL, which is closer to the boundary. Perhaps JDT is a gentle trail for such a brutal climb in Steer Ridge Trail.
  6. Going back to Coe HQ, BCL stays on Manzanita Rd instead of taking Springs Trail closer to the boundary.

Water Resources

The best time to do it is from January through May after the rain has come to fill the springs, creeks, and ponds as reliable water sources. I always drink directly but bring a filter to refill water along the way if you have concerns. They will dry up in late May and for the rest of the year through summer and fall. From late May to late September, the park also becomes very hot with the daytime temperature easily over 90F.

Here are the water sources along the way from Hunting Hollow Entrance in the counterclockwise direction. Those highlighted are more reliable.

Hunting Hollow Creek, Gibson Pond, Doe Spring, Coo Hunter’s Gulch, Long Dam Pond, Edith Pond, Canada de la Dormia, Dowdy Visitor Center, Sturla Dowdy Spring, North Fork Pacheco Creek, Purple Pond, Jackrabbit Lake (half a mile east from the route), South Fork Orestimba Creek, Robison Creek, Pinto Creek, Red Creek, East Fork Coyote Creek, Sada Spring, Little Fork Coyote Creek, Frog Lake (100 meters from the route), Middle Fork Coyote Creek, Coe HQ, The Narrows, Lower Grapevine Spring (100 meters from the route), Coyote Creek. 


Henry State Park -
Park Map -
Route Caltopo page -
The Turns Sheet -, HH/CCW route. Other variations TBD.

GPS Track



User Picture
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I went on a scouting mission a few weeks back for this FKT, and have some route alteration recommendations.

I think it almost mandatory to cut out the Mt Stakes section at the northern tip of the park, instead cutting left on the Robinson Creek Trail. I was cruising at a great pace, able to get to mile 36ish in about 9 hours. At this point I decided to turn the scouting mission into an FKT attempt, but then the next 4 miles took 6 HOURS! It was a true sufferfest with insane bushwhacking all the way up to that road, and then dropping back off that road was more heinous bushwhacking.

By the time I got to Pinto Creek, it was dark. I bushwhacked up on the "Mount Stakes Trail" after crossing Pinto Creek and filling up water. But it was more insufferably horrid bushwhacking (and I pride myself in doing well in heinous bushwhacks) -- sharp bushes and tress all laced with poison oak so thick that I couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead at any given point...

I ended up turning around to drop down the Pinto Creek Trail which was pretty crappy, but it put me back onto Robinson Creek trail where I rejoined the route. I slept for a couple hours then cracked on.

Another note is I did not see any semblance of a trail (even by Henry Coe standards) where the Rockhouse Creek Trail was supposed to be. I did find a fireroad that went in that general direction but was not on caltopo (it is on the 2013 coe paper maps though). I took that and eventually cut out a bit of the section that went over to Coe HQ and China hole to end my suffering.

Anyways -- chihpingfu, what do you think about modifying the official route to take the Robinson Creek Alternate? Here's a map, with basically your route, but my route update in purple: I also marked where I was unable to find that Rockhouse Creek Trail, but I'll go for another scouting mission to hit the rest of the Western part of the route and report back.

IDK how hard it is to change the route on this page, or if we should make a new one. But please take my word for it, haha -- I wouldn't wish that Mt. Stakes bushwhack on anyone. HEINOUS!