Henry Coe Backpacking – Poverty Flat

In the spring, one of the most convenient places to backpack nearby is Henry Coe State Park. The park is nestled in the hills east of Morgan Hill, behind Anderson Reservoir. The park is HUGE, with more than 87,000 acres of open space. In my last backpacking post at the park, I went to the south entrance (Hunting Hollow) of the park and packed to Coit Lake. This time around, I went for a late May overnight at the park headquarters.

My lovely campsite (2). Photos by Lisette

On this side of the park, the campsites are reserved on a first come, first served basis, so if you want to arrive before 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday to have any shot at getting a good site. The most popular site at the park is the one (yes, just one) by China Hole, while I wasn’t early enough to snag this spot, I was able to get one nearby and more convenient to a restroom at Poverty Flat. My site, camp 2, was very quiet and peaceful, just across the creek from the most direct trail in from HQ. I came in by way of the Manzanita trail, to the China Hole train and then turned onto Poverty Flat Road. The Middle Fork of Coyote Creek runs through Poverty Flat, so my site actually was creekside and I spent a lot of time sitting with my feet in the creek and reading during my stay. 


The campsite at China Hole. Photo by Lisette

One of my goals for this trip was to check out China Hole and the “narrows” at the park, so I quickly followed the Creekside trail about 0.6 miles to get to China Hole, this has a few nice open swimming spots, and from here you turn up the eastern fork of the Coyote Creek (away from Poverty Flat) where it forks to enter “the narrows.” There is basically no trail here for some time, you need to follow the creek and should be prepared to be somewhat submerged, particularly in the spring at various points. This makes for a lovely afternoon hike after setting up camp. I looped back on Mahoney Meadows Road back to Poverty Flat Road. This afternoon loop was approximately four miles. Expect a bit of a climb up and back down after you finish the narrows on the way back with very limited shade. 

Exploring “the narrows.” Photos by Lisette

Once back at camp, I enjoyed a good read by the creek. Sitting by the creek I saw an adorable turtle float by and also chatted up a little frog who sat for some time by my feet. I then ate a solid dinner and headed home first thing in the morning. I highly recommend this creekside camp during the later spring for cool waters to splash in, a quiet experience away from other campers and bathroom access. 

Wildlife at the park. Photos by Lisette

Find a map of the park here: https://coepark.net/images/maps/hq_hiking_map.pdf


  • Overnight parking: $8/night
  • Campsite fees: $5/person/night

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