Henry Coe State Park is the wildest Bay Area backpacking locale, and the one place where backpackers can choose their own campsites... more » without a reservation.
There is a trade-off: Henry Coe is all former ranch land and many of its trails are old dirt roads designed for motorized travel. That means steep, exhausting climbs and knee-grinding descents.
Still, the hills-to-the-horizon vistas, gorgeous spring wildflowers and remote, out-there vibe makes Henry Coe a must visit for those who like to carry their own gear and camp out for a few days. It's not unusual to spot deer, coyotes, bobcats and other wild critters.
It's also a good place to get your legs in shape and test your gear for more ambitious outings in California's High Sierra.
When to go: April and May -- peak wildflower season -- are the best months, though the park does get more crowded. January through March will be rainy and cold, but there will be plenty of water in the streams. Late September through December will be cooler, though rain risk rises after the first of November. Mid-June through mid-September will be too hot and dry.
Mind your water: Most of the park's creeks dry up from June through December, but many springs run all year. Check with rangers about water availability along any route you're planning.
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