This 46 mile bikepacking route in Henry Coe State Park makes for a solid overnight ride, or even two nights if you want to take it slow. Thanks to Henry Coe park’s many dispersed camping options and the loop’s figure-8 shape, there are tons of possibilities for breaking this route up, switching the direction, extending it, or cutting it short. As mapped below, the route takes you deep into the less-visited east side of Henry Coe State Park, where you may not see another visitor the entire day.
This route is suitable for intermediate bikepackers and those with more experience. The elevation change is no joke, and the terrain will keep you on your toes. Riders will encounter mostly rugged fire roads, with a few miles of nice singletrack and some signature steep Henry Coe hike-a-bike. Depending on what season you go, weather and water sources may both be issues. See below for tips and details.
Distance: 46 miles, with options for both shorter and longer
Elevation Gain: 7,437 feet
Type: Figure 8 loop
Singletrack: about 7 miles
Fire road: about 37 miles
Pavement: 2 miles
Map and GPS Track
Get ready to climb nearly 2000 feet right away as you leave Hunting Hollow entrance. The singletrack is well maintained and reasonably gradual, compared to the rest of the park at least. From there a fire road takes you down to Wilson Camp around mile 6, where you can fill up on water or even spend a night if getting a late start.
Leaving Wilson Camp, Wagon Road is rideable and rolling. At around mile 11 you can choose to stay left on Coit Road or take an easy-to-miss right on Live Oak Spring trail for a detour down to Pacheco Falls (adding substantial elevation change). At mile 13 you’ll reach Pacheco Camp, a nice spot with water and picnic tables. Turn right and start climbing one of a few small but sharp rolling hills.
Around mile 16 you’ll join Orestimba Creek on Orestimba Creek Road tracing the eastern edge of the Orestimba Wilderness. In the spring when the creek is flowing, the next five miles may be full of ankle/knee deep creek crossings, with plenty of nice campsites along the way. The road is finally flat-ish, but don’t expect fast miles; the creek crossings and rocky gravel will slow you down. At mile 17.4 the map shows a trail following South Fork Orestimba Creek to the left, but it’s simpler to curve right and take the road up the hill instead.
At mile 22 you’ll cross Orestimba Creek for the last time and begin climbing again. At mile 23.3 there’s a left turn for 1ish mile out-and-back to Jackrabbit Lake, which would make a good camp spot before tackling the next climb.
Around mile 24 the trail tops out onto a gorgeous ridgeline with steep rollercoaster hills, followed by a brutally steep hike-a-bike up to Mustang Peak. Then enjoy some well-earned downhill on fire road with a few short climbs mixed in. At the bottom the road crosses North Fork Pacheco Creek at mile 33 and starts another big climb, a consistent grade but fairly steep.
Around mile 35 you reach the top of the consistent climb, followed by several miles of rolling hills through grassy meadows, with some short-and-steep rollers mixed in. After a short section you’ve covered before on the way out, you’ll turn right for the final bit of steep rollers.
At mile 41, savor the last high point before plunging downhill on singletrack all the way to the Coyote Creek park entrance. From there, it’s a smooth 2 miles on pavement back to the Hunting Hollow entrance and parking lot.
This route is closely based on this route mapped by Julia Engle, with a few modifications made while riding. Thanks Julia!
There’s no shortage of good places to camp along this route. Here are a few ideas.
If riding the route as an overnight, Jackrabbit Lake at the far end of the loop (mile 23) cuts the route nicely in half, but it’s half a mile off route (not a big deal in the grand scheme of things). Just a few miles before, the stretch along Orestimba Creek also has some nice campsites and would be a convenient water source as long as it’s flowing.
If heading out for two nights and getting a late start, Wilson Camp at mile 6.4 makes a nice place to spend your first night. Poke around a bit for sheltered spots along the creek if you don’t want to camp right next to the buildings. Pacheco Camp at mile 13 is another nice established camping option, if it happens to fit your desired daily distances.
If pushing past Jackrabbit Lake, there isn’t a lot of flat ground between the lake and the turnoff to Mustang Peak. The one exception: right around mile 25.5 there is a slight rise on the left with an old overgrown fire road heading along the fence up to the top. Up there is a flat spot right by the fence with an awesome view out over the hills to the west.
Water in Henry Coe Park can be a challenge, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest water source reports before making plans. In the summer and fall especially, many sources dry up and the temperatures can be very hot, a dangerous combination if you haven’t planned for it.
That said, here are some water sources I would tentatively suggest along this route. These were all flowing in the spring, but again, check the latest conditions:
- Wilson Camp (mile 6)
- Pacheco Camp (mile 13)
- Orestimba Creek (miles 16-22)
- Jackrabbit Lake (mile 23)
- Pacheco Creek near Hole in the Rock Trail (mile 33)
The water from all these sources is not potable, so be sure to bring some kind of filter or purifier.
Extensions and Shortcuts
Though this loop flows nicely as-is, there are plenty of options for making it shorter or longer.
One nice shortcut option for riders new to Henry Coe Park or unsure of their tolerance for steep hills: the entire section between miles 16 and 29 can be skipped with a short half-mile connection across the middle of the northern loop. This would cut out a remote and interesting part of the ride, but also some of the steepest climbing, so for those in need of a bailout option it’s very convenient.
Riders wanting to go further could add in a detour to Coit Lake or Mississippi Lake, both popular camp spots and convenient water sources even in summer. Other options abound, but beware the temptation of Henry Coe trail maps; many smaller trails are unmaintained and overgrow, and rapid elevation change can make apparent “shortcuts” into slogs.
While the Orestimba Wilderness region looks tempting on the map as you reach the far north side of the loop, bikes aren’t allowed on those trails. But it could be a nice opportunity for a day hike in a place that normally takes hikers several days to reach on foot.
Permits at Hunting Hollow Entrance
To spend the night in Henry Coe State Park you’ll need a backcountry permit. At Hunting Hollow entrance you can self-issue this permit for $5 per person per night. Bring exact change, and a pen to fill out the envelope.
Parking at Hunting Hollow Entrance
Hunting Hollow entrance has a large dirt parking lot that probably never fills up. You can leave your car there overnight for $6 per car per night. There are also a few legal pullouts along Gilroy Hot Springs Road between Coyote Reservoir Road and the Hunting Hollow entrance, if you want to save money on parking fees and add a few miles of lightly traveled pavement to your ride.
Navigation in Henry Coe State Park
The RideWithGPS map above will get you through this route. Be sure to save it offline in the app, or download the gpx file to the navigation device of your choice. As always when riding in a remote area, bring a backup. It can also be nice to print and bring along this overview map for a sense of the bigger picture on paper.
The fire roads in Henry Coe are generally well signed, but the smaller trails can be overgrown, hard to spot, and inconsistently marked on electronic maps. There are a few places where it’s easy to miss turns and end up a few hundred feet downhill from where you’re supposed to be.
I would recommend that anyone adventuring in Henry Coe State Park invest in this excellent detailed map. It’s the only map that accurately shows the park’s extensive trail network, and the money paid goes to support the park.
Terrain and Bike
A rigid 29er or hard tail would both be great for this route. You will see mountain bikers on full suspension bikes in Henry Coe Park but it’s certainly not necessary. I rode my Salsa Fargo with tubeless 2.1 inch tires and thought it was a good choice.
Henry Coe Bikepacking Tips
Best Time to Ride
Spring is the best time to bikepack in Henry Coe State Park, with its moderate temperatures, abundant wildflowers, and plentiful water sources. The hills turn from brown to green and the landscape is downright idyllic. Depending on recent rains, some creek crossings might be high enough to be tricky.
Fall is next-best, with moderate temperatures and easy creek crossings, but sometimes scant water sources.
Summer can be brutally hot, so plan water refills very carefully and expect a tough time on those steep climbs. There are also times of the summer – I remember July being one – where all the plants shed prickly bits that stick to your shoes and socks. This would be a horrible time to go bushwacking on smaller trails.
Winter can be a good time, but avoid riding singletrack within 48 hours of rain (this is an official park rule and helps keep the trails in rideable condition). Don’t get caught unexpectedly by the short daylight hours, and be prepared for sub-freezing temperatures in some areas and occasionally a light dusting of snow up high.
Tips and Warnings
- Henry Coe State Park, especially the east side, is surprisingly remote and rugged. Don’t expect to come across other visitors, and don’t expect cell phone service. It’s smart to bring a SPOT or Garmin satellite beacon just in case.
- Terrain in Henry Coe can be steep and unforgiving. There’s no avoiding some gnarly hike-a-bike on pretty much any route long enough to be interesting. Fire roads are typically steep and many smaller trails are overgrown.
- Summer weather can be brutally hot and water sources can be few and far between.
- Watch out for ticks, poison oak, and occasionally rattlesnakes. Enjoy the foxes, birds, rabbits, wild pigs, bobcats, turtles, and lots of other wildlife!