Lee Brimelow

Henry Coe Mississippi Lake Loop Hike


Last week my friend Cameron and I tackled the longest possible day hike in Henry Coe State Park. The brutal 26-mile loop hike to Mississippi Lake and back comes with about 6000′ of elevation gain, making it a true test of will. Cameron, a 51 year old, ex-Army Ranger, hadn’t really been training at all for this but he still finished strong.

We got to the trailhead at Dunne Street headquarters at around 06:30 and we were off on the Corral Trail by 07:00. We estimated that it would take approximately 10-12 hours and that ended up being pretty accurate as we returned to my truck at around 18:00.

Arriving at Mississippi Lake.

Arriving at Mississippi Lake.

About an hour into the hike I accidentally got my shoes soaked during a creek crossing, which would later come back to haunt me (keep reading). We arrived at Mississippi Lake at around lunchtime and we were feeling great. I remember thinking “this is too easy”, but of course that didn’t last long.

On the return trip we decided to make it a loop by climbing up and down Bear Mountain. This gave us some great views but it was also completely exposed with no shade to be found anywhere. It was at the top of Bear Mountain that the trail signs kind of disappeared. Henry Coe is pretty wild for a state park and there is the real possibility of getting lost. I grew concerned about the direction we were going because everything looks the same in this park. This was a good lesson about being prepared for the possibility of getting lost and having to be out overnight.

Descending Bear Mountain. Water ahead!

Descending Bear Mountain. Water ahead!

At the bottom of Bear Mountain we were able to refill our water supplies in the creek thanks to the water filter pump I was carrying. Again a good lesson. When I bought it I remember thinking “I’ll probably never even need this thing.” Wrong again!

After the water refill we had to do about 20 different creek crossings and I again got my feet soaked. I forgot to bring an extra pair of socks with me (rookie mistake) and I began to get some serious foot issues. I subsequently had to do the rest of the hike with no socks on. BRING EXTRA SOCKS!

Feet are fucked so going no-socks from here.

Feet are fucked so going no-socks from here.

Luckily I had a park map and we were able to determine that following the creek was the right direction to go. My phone was also dead at this point so we couldn’t rely Google Maps to guide us. I need to buy a USB power brick for emergencies and I recently bought a Garmin Tactix GPS watch so I don’t have to use my phone to track things.

At this point the hike started to get really hard. With only 5 miles left we both hit a brick wall as we scaled the endless trail up from the Poverty Flat camp ground. My hips, glutes, and IT bands were in serious pain. We again were getting very low on water as well.

About 8 hours into the hike. Dying!

About 8 hours into the hike. Dying!

Luckily at the top there was a water tank with potable water that we indulged in (thanks park rangers). The last two miles back to headquarters was seriously the toughest thing I’ve ever done physically. At the end of the hike we were both destroyed but also feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Cameron said it was the toughest thing he’s done since Ranger School.

Cameron at the finish line.

Cameron at the finish line.

As a side note, two days later at the gym I got a sharp pain in my ankle while running on the treadmill. Turns out I have Tibial Stress Syndrome and will be in a brace for a couple of weeks. I have no doubt that it was the result of this epic day at Henry Coe. I’ll definitely be doing this hike again someday and be better prepared.

Here is the Runkeeper track from the hike. The times are approximate as I had to manually fill in the second half as my phone had died.

Google Chrome

China Hole Hike – Henry Coe State Park

Today I completed my second hike in Henry Coe State Park, a 10-mile loop to China Hole and back. My comrade Tom Krcha came along with me and we arrived at park HQ at around 10:30.

China Hole is one the most popular hikes at Henry Coe as its length and difficulty makes it rewarding for both beginners and more experienced hikers. We followed the route from this guide on TripAdvisor, taking the Madrone Soda Springs Trail on the way out.

Lunch at China Hole

Lunch at China Hole

The hike has a total elevation gain of 2204 ft, with the toughest section being right after the turn-around point on China Hole Trail.

The destination - China Hole

The destination – China Hole

There were quite a few other people out due to the weekend and excellent weather. The park is so huge however that it never really feels crowded. So far I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this park has to offer.

Me, Krcha, and Coe

The next hike I want to tackle at Coe is a monster 25-mile hike to Mississippi Lake and back with 6000 feet of total elevation gain. Will probably get a couple more weeks of training in before attempting this though.

Here is the RunKeeper info for today’s hike:


Henry Coe State Park Mt. Sizer Loop Hike

The other day I tackled what many people consider to be the toughest trail in the Bay Area. Of course there are so many things that can factor into the toughness of a hike so I take this designation with a grain of salt.

The Mt. Sizer Loop is a 15-16 mile loop hike through the beautiful Henry Coe State Park near Morgan Hill. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the park’s headquarters from San Jose. I arrived around 08:30, paid the park fees, and was off hiking by about 09:00.


5.11 Tactical RUSH 72 pack

I used my 5.11 Tactical RUSH 72 pack with 2 CamelBack reservoirs containing diluted Gatorade. I sweat a lot more than most people so this amount of hydration is definitely necessary. I also carried some energy chews, a cliff bar, and some trail mix. I also brought along my new SOG SEAL Pup knife. Didn’t think I’d actually need it for anything but I had just bought it and it made my pack look badass!

The Shortcut

Everything I’ve read about this hike mentions this one brutal section known as the Shortcut. It is a 1400 ft ascent in only 1.4 miles. When I got to the bottom of it I was feeling great so I just went for it without taking a break. That probably wasn’t the best idea as it was very steep and seemed to go on forever. Unlike other steep hikes there aren’t really any switchbacks to make things easier. My legs were burning by the time I reached the top.

The Shortcut looks easy in this photo. It's not.

The Shortcut is harder than it looks here.

After the Shortcut you are very close to the top of Mt. Sizer. Now don’t get too excited as it’s not much of mountain to look at. The views from here are beautiful in all directions though. From here you start a long downhill trek to the Poverty Flat campground.

There were a some forks in the trail that were not marked so I made a couple of mistaken detours. I’m guessing this added about an extra mile onto my total. Here are the stats from RunKeeper:


Henry Coe State Park allows open camping in some areas so I definitely would love to do an overnight here someday. Also doing this hike in the middle of the night would be pretty interesting.