Published in the March 21 – April 3, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Henry W. Coe State Park celebrates 60 years preserving the wilderness for the public enjoyment. Photo by Marty Cheek

A large number of families explored Henry W. Coe State Park on the recent Presidents’ Day weekend. The kids didn’t seem to mind the brisk wind as they ran laughing along the trails and enjoyed the vistas of rolling ranges of mountains and blue skies filled with cotton-candy clouds. Some of them came from as far away as Germany.

Living in South Valley, we are lucky to have right in our backyard Coe Park. With more than 87,000 acres of wild nature, it’s the largest state park in Northern California. And this November, Coe will celebrate 60 years as a state park. We encourage all families and all people who love getting outdoors to make a goal of visiting the park sometime in 2018 and discover its rugged wonders.

The terrain of the park is majestic with lofty ridges and steep canyons. Although many trails are extreme in difficulty — the Mount Sizor Loop is infamous among hikers as the “toughest trail in the Bay Area” — there are several trails with easy access that provide a good walk without much sweat-breaking.

Coe is filled with a bounty of history, including once serving as the home of Ohlone Indians. You can learn at the Visitor Center how these people lived in harmony with the land, using plants and animals in wise ways as resources to sustain their village members.

When California opened to American settlement, small ranches popped up in the landscape where families began to raise cattle. In recent years, the Gilroy Hot Springs former resort site was absorbed into the state park territory. It served as a summer get-away for San Francisco socialites in the 19th century and into the 20th century. In the aftermath of World War II, many Japanese-American citizens found a refuge there following the years they spent in internment camps.

Among the ranching pioneers was Henry W. Coe, Jr., who started his Pine Ridge Ranch on 12,230 acres of mountain overlooking the village of Morgan Hill. His daughter, Sada Coe Robinson, eventually donated the land to Santa Clara County in 1953 with hopes it would become a place for residents to escape the encroaching urbanization that would lead to the creation of Silicon Valley. A memorial erected to Henry W. Coe by the county is a popular destination for hikers. It is easily reached on a half-mile-long trail from the Visitor Center. The county was not economically prepared to run the park, so supervisors offered the land to the state government of California, which purchased it for $10. Coe Park officially transferred to the state Nov. 10, 1958.

The original park grew as ranchers over the decades sold their properties to the state. Within Coe Park are the headwaters of Coyote Creek, long stretches of the Pacheco and Orestimba creeks, and a 23,300-acre wilderness area. In the southern part of the park, easily accessible from Gilroy, is the three-mile Hunting Hollow Trail, an easy hike along a creek. Many people come here to enjoy a few hours meandering through the wildflowers in the spring. Wilson Peak, we warn you, is an intense climb but well worth the effort. From here, standing at a single spot, hikers can on a clear day get a remarkable view of Half Dome in Yosemite across the San Joaquin Valley and, by turning their head, the Monterey Bay.

The park is open year-round for hikers, mountain bikers, backpackers, equestrians, car campers, picnickers, photographers, and people who simply like to visit nature. The Pine Ridge Association, a group of volunteers dedicated to maintaining the park, organizes various events throughout the year to introduce them to the wonders of Coe. Wildflower hikes are planned in the spring as well as moonlight hikes through the Meet-up group. The Backcountry Weekend (April 27 to 29) is a popular way to experience the awe-inspiring landscape of the Orestimba Wilderness. Family events throughout the year help children learn about the natural world. These include the fun Rain Coats and Rubber Boots Day (March 3), Ranch Day (May 19), the Mother’s Day Breakfast, and the Tarantula Fest in October. The Henry Coe 5K/10K Fun Run and Walk will be held June 9.

We encourage you to find more information on Coe’s website at www.coepark.net/pineridgeassociation and participate in these popular events. Or, if you’re in an adventurous mood, just take a short drive and visit the park on a weekend. Or maybe even go after work for a sunset hike. Discover Henry W. Coe State Park for yourself and no doubt you’ll keep coming back to a wondrous place where you can connect with nature and find a serenity far from the stress of daily life.

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Gilroy Life Editorial

If you would like to share your thoughts about this editorial, please email Robert Airoldi, the Gilroy Life editor, at editor@GilroyLife.com or call him at (408) 427-5865.
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