For National Trails Day on June 1, 2013, I decided to hike in Henry W. Coe State Park outside Morgan Hill. I’ve heard about Coe Park for years and it’s held a certain fascination for me, but I’d never actually visited the park previously. I was planning on a somewhat short hike, so I turned to a guidebook describing easy day hikes in the San Jose area, where I found a write-up for a 2.3 mile hike with interlocking lollipop/balloon loops. I was expecting a warm day, so I decided to try the suggested hike – which had a promising title of Top of the Ridge Tour – and see how I felt upon finishing. I also downloaded a trail map and made a couple of alternative tentative plans for extending my hike.
Coe Park is 12 miles up a winding road (E. Dunne Ave) from US-101. Along the way the road passes Anderson Reservoir in Anderson Lake County Park and continues to climb into the hills.
As I drove I felt as though I was going further and further into the boonies, so I resolved to hike longer than 2.3 miles if possible. At the beginning of the hike the temperature was a glorious 70 degrees, and more like 90 degrees (and maybe 10% relative humidity) when I finished. The GPS track looks complicated, with 3 different loops and a couple of offshoots. The entire hike was in the Pine Ridge area.
The starting point was the Visitor Center at the lower left of the GPS track. About a half mile from the trailhead, after walking up the Monument Trail and gaining a quick few hundred feet of elevation, the Ponderosa Trail goes off to the left. From this lollipop (or balloon) trail there are additional views of the Coyote Valley. In this picture Loma Prieta (of 1989 earthquake fame) is right in the middle of the skyline.
There are also a number of magnificent ponderosa pines along the trail.
Resuming the climb and following a trail sign toward Frog Lake, after another 0.2 mile the trail tees at Hobbs Rd. From this intersection Middle Ridge was in clear view.
This intersection was the highest elevation of the hike at just over 3000 feet.
A short distance after turning right to go down Hobbs Rd I took the short side trip to pause at the monument honoring Henry W. Coe. The monument has the following inscription: “May these quiet hills bring peace to the souls of those who are seeking.” About 0.4 mile down Hobbs Rd there was a side trail to the Sierra View campsite. I hiked in to the campsite, hoping for a view of the Sierra Nevada. Instead, I was treated to a beautiful view of the Diablo Range.
Hobbs Rd tees into Manzanita Point Rd. I was planning to take Springs Trail, which takes off near the so-called Grand Junction. However, just over 0.1 mile down Springs Trail I encountered a snake stretched out across the trail, effectively blocking my progress. I’m pretty sure it was just a gopher snake, but it didn’t move, even when I rang my bear bells and tapped my hiking poles to make some noise.
I was not about to try to step over a snake of this size, so I returned to Grand Junction and devised an alternative plan, continuing down Manzanita Point Rd for about 0.8 mile. Along Manzanita Point Rd there were several striking isolated oak trees, including this one.
I turned left at Poverty Flat Rd and then immediately left again on Forest Trail. I soon encountered a nice madrone tree.
Most of the previous part of my hike had been through grassland in full sun. By now the temperature was probably 85 degrees, and the shade of the Forest Trail was very welcome.
It is noteworthy that Forest Trail includes a self-guided tour aspect. There are 28 locations with numbered posts to identify specific items that are described in a reusable handout found in a little box at either end of the trail. From east to west, the direction I hiked, the posts are in descending order. Perhaps 0.1 mile from the west end of the trail I noticed another hiker crouched next to the trail, obviously looking closely at something. It turned out that she had found a beautiful mariposa lily.
After enjoying the lily I returned to the trailhead via the Corral Trail. This hike was an excellent introduction to Henry Coe State Park, and I look forward to return for further exploration.