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Henry W. Coe State Park, California, United States

China Hole Hike - Henry Coe State Park

The essential Henry Coe Hike: 10 arduous miles through the park's demanding mountainous terrain.

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 10.0 miles / 16.1 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly
Overview: China Hole is one of the most popular destinations at Henry Coe State Park. Spring rains create a picturesque swimming hole at the confluence of two creeks, making the nearby backcountry campsite a prized locale for overnight outings.

A day hike to China Hole is a perfect alternative if you hate to sleep on the ground but love to get your heart pumping under the California sun. You'll also descend along the Madrone Soda Springs Trail and the Mile Trail, which passes the decaying remains of an era when the springs were a major tourist attraction.

Best time to go: spring, when the hills are green and the wildflowers are popping, and early summer, when it's warm enough to swim at China Hole. The water gets more dank as summer progresses -- the puddles remaining after July tend to reek.

Tips: China Hole helped cement Henry Coe's reputation for butt-kicker hikes. Don't go unless you know you can handle 10 miles with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, with all the climb in last five miles

There's a lot of water on this route - Madrone Soda Springs Trail crosses a creek several times, and it borders on impossible to get across the creek at China Hole without getting your feet wet. Plan accordingly if you want to keep your feet dry.

Inspect your clothing for ticks -- they are very common in the springtime and can be a nuisance most of the year.

Watch for poison oak along narrow stretches of trail.

What to bring:
Sunscreen - much of this hike is unshaded
Clothing in layers; it's easy to overheat on Henry Coe's trails
Enough water for a six-hour outing
Snacks to keep your energy up
Hiking staff or poles if you use them.

Points of Interest


Dunne Avenue HQ: Start on Corral Trail

Start at the Park HQ to pay for parking and ask the rangers if there are any trail closures or blockages along this route.

Find the Corral Trail, just behind the park HQ. Take the trail through the woods for about a half-mile till it intersects with the Springs Trail.

Springs Trail

Bear right on Springs Trail - a very nice single-track that is one of the prime wildlife and wildflower areas at Henry Coe (I once spotted a coyote here not 20 yards from the trail).

Stay on the Springs Trail for 1.3 miles till it intersects with Manzanita Point Road.

Manzanita Point Road

Turn right on Manzanita Point Road and stay on it for about .8 mile.

You'll pass through the Manzanita Point Campgrounds, where the next major trail junction is near a privy.

Junction: China Hole Trail/Madrone Soda Springs Trail

Bear Right on the Madrone Soda Springs Trail. This is a steep, one-mile descent with awesome views of the nearby hills. It bottoms out at a creek near the old Madrone Soda Springs.

(Don't be tempted to head straight for the China Hole Trail -- you'll use that trail on your return route; it's far better to descend along Madrone Soda Springs Trail and ascend on China Hole Trail.)

Madrone Soda Springs/Mile Trail

The trail turns left into the Mile Trail. Along the way you'll pass the ruins of an old cabin and an abandoned root cellar carved into the hillside.

Mile Trail crosses the creek several times - watch your step or you'll end up with wet feet.

China Hole

Mile Trail leads to China Hole at the bottom of a large canyon.

The China Hole campsite is on the other side of the creek - unless you're camping out at China Hole, there's really no need to cross the creek; consider it optional depending on how adventurous you feel.

If you go for a swim, don't forget to save your energy for the five-mile uphill hike back to the park HQ.

Return trip: China Hole Trail

Look for the sign post for China Hole Trail on the west bank of the creek. The trail starts climbing steeply from the beginning.

Take your time and enjoy the view on the way up -- this is the hardest part of the hike, but the trail's switchbacks ease the strain.

After 1.3 miles you'll come to the intersection with the Cougar Trail. Stay on China Hole Trail and follow it back to the Manzanita Point group camps.

After another 1.2 miles you'll return to the intersection with Manzanita Point Road and Madrone Soda Springs Trail. Turn right on Manzanita Point Road.

Corral Trail turnoff

Manzanita Point Road - you'll see the Springs Trail on your left after .8 mile. If you're still feeling strong, retracing your steps on Springs Trail is a nice alternative.

If, however, you're more in a mood for getting your hike over with, hike on for about another three-quarters of a mile till you see a sign post reading "Coe HDQRTS. 0.7 MI"

Turn left here: This is the Corral Trail, which returns to the parking lot.
I am not convinced that this hike has 2000' gain - if it does then it is pretty well disguised. That figure is mentioned in the map published by CA State parks, but from the topological, elevation at Park HQ is around 2600' and Cayote creek is around 1200'. We could add in a couple of hundred feet to account for rolling terrain, we'd still be about 400' short.
Visited on Jan 31, 2016

by farazs on Feb 01, 2016
This is a helpful guide with some really nice pictures.

by trailsnet on May 10, 2011

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