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Coyote Lake - Harvey Bear County Park

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Pictures of the Park

Harvey Bear Ranch 3/10/07

Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch 3/20-21/09

Trail work Day on the Savannah Trail, 4/18/09

Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch 4/18/09

Mummy Mountain Trail Work Day/Trail Opening 4/24/10

Geocaching Class, Mummy Mountain Trail 5/15/10

Photography Class, Mummy Mountain Trail, 4/23/11

Willow Springs, Savannah, Rancho San Ysidro Trails, 12/22/11

Roop Pond and Rancho La Polka Trails 2/20/12

Photography Class, Mummy Mountain Trail, 4/7/12

Calaveras  Trail Wildflowers, 4/9/13

Ed Willson Trail, 4/9/13

Contact Ron Horii

Ed Willson Trail, Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch, November 10, 2012

View of Coyote Lake from Coyote Dam

On November 10, 2012, I went to Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch County Park in Gilroy. I wanted to see the new Ed Willson Trail, which was opened on April 21, 2012, after a year of planning and construction.  The trail is significant for three reasons: it is the northernmost trail in the park, reaching the park's northern boundary, it is the highest trail in the park, reaching over 1460 feet, and it is the last trail that will be built in the park, at least according to the current master plan. It is a 2.8-mile long hiking-only trail. During the trail planning process in 2004-2005, the hiking community requested that some trails be designated as hiking-only. Those trails were the Mummy Mountain, Rancho La Polka, and Ed Willson trails. Here are pictures and maps of the Ed Willson trail. Taken in fall, the hills aren't very green yet, but if we get enough rain, they should green up quickly. The cattle have been busy eating the grass and weeds, so the hills should be covered with a nice smooth lawn in the spring.

Who was Ed Willson? I got the answer from Don Rocha, Natural Resources Manager for the County Parks: "Ed Willson was the name of a Ranch hand who worked for the Bear Family and died at the Ranch. It was requested by the Bear Family to retain his name somewhere and proposed and adopted as a trail name."

This is a portion of the park map, showing the Ed Willson Trail. The letters correspond to certain pictures as noted. This hike began at the parking lot at the Coyote Dam, went up the Harvey Bear Trail to the Ed Willson Trail and returned on the Harvey Bear Trail. This is the easiest way to reach the trail, as it starts at about 800 feet. The longer and harder way to get to the trail is to take the Harvey Bear Trail from the west, starting at the Harvey Bear Ranch entrance at 400 feet. The extremely long way to get to the trail is to start at the Mendoza Ranch entrance, which is about 3.9 miles to the southeast (as the crow flies).

This is a 3-D topo map showing the hike route in red, taken from a GPS track of the actual hike. The total distance is 3.9 miles. Note how the trail ascends the hill, though it doesn't quite reach the highest point. Note the steep hills to the right. Coyote Creek flows down below in the canyon. It flows into Anderson Reservoir in the distance.

This is point A on the map above. It is the eastern trailhead of the Ed Willson Trail at about 945 feet in elevation. This part of the trail is flat, leading through a broad, gently-sloping grass-covered meadow. The grass has been clipped short by cattle grazing.

The trail crosses a bridge over a seasonal creek. The bridge is built to park standards and can support a lot more weight than a few hikers. It can easily support a herd of cattle.

The east side of the trail runs in and out of oak forests as it gradually ascends the hill.

There are lots of oak trees on this side of the hill, mostly coast live oaks and valley oaks.

This is point B on the map above, where the trail makes an S-turn.

The trail passes an open field on the left and an oak forest on the right.

This is point C in the map above, where the trail switches south and begins a long ascent up a hill. This is actually the northernmost part of the trail, but because of the trees, there's limited visibility to the north. It is right at the northern boundary of the park.

The trail makes a long, straight, but gradual climb up the hill.

As the trail climbs the hill, you can see where you came from on the trail below. In the background are steep hills and ranch roads. The ridge in the background is Nesbit Ridge, which is private property.

There are buckeye trees along the hillside. At this time of year, they have lost their leaves.

This part of the trail was cut through a rocky hillside.

The trail reaches a stand of pine trees as the tree cover opens up.

Finally, the trail emerges at the edge of the hill. It has unobstructed panoramic views to the south. This is the view from point D in the map above. Coyote Dam is in the center. The ridge from the center to the right is Sheep Ridge. Nesbit Ridge is on the left. In-between them is Larios Canyon.

Looking more to the right, you can see all of Coyote Lake, as well as the Harvey Bear Trail and the start of the Ed Willson Trail. Coyote Lake was formed by damming Coyote Creek. The creek flows along the fault valley created by the Calaveras Fault. Geologic forces along the faultline have created the rolling hills on the west side of the valley and the steep ridges on the east side. Sheep Ridge is to the east of Coyote Lake. The south half of the ridge is part of 3,447-acre Palassou Open Space Preserve, owned by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. Palassou adjoins 87,000-acre Henry Coe State Park, which is farther to the east. Henry Coe, the largest state park in Northern California, contains the headwaters of Coyote Creek. Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear County Park itself covers 4,595 acres. These three properties together comprise a huge expanse of protected open space. They are not currently connected by trails, but maybe someday they will be. Coyote Creek flows through all of them.

Looking a bit more to the right, you can see the west leg of the Ed Willson Trail joining the Harvey Bear Trail. The hill on the left is part of the park. The Coyote Ridge Trail runs along the west side of it. In the distance is the city of Gilroy.

Looking more to the west, you can see San Martin and Morgan Hill.

The view along the trail to the northwest looks towards downtown Morgan Hill and El Toro Mountain.

Below are telephoto views taken from the trail in this area:

This is the spillway and outlet of Coyote Dam.

This is the bridge at the start of the trail.

The trail switches back and continues to climb along the east side of the hills.

This is the view looking back.

The trail passes by a large multi-trunked stand of bay laurel trees, providing the only shade on this part of the trail.

This is a view east of Nesbit Ridge, which  tops out at 2791 feet. The steep jeep road climbing up it is called Finley Ridge Road. Finley Ridge is the next ridge to the left of the picture.

Down in the valley below is a corral, which is on private property, just north of the park.

The trail makes a U-turn at point E in the map above. Looking towards the north, Finley Ridge on the left and Nesbit Ridge on the right, divided by Otis Canyon in the center. In the background on the right is Fitzgerald Ridge. All this land is privately-owned.

The hill to the left is on private property. It blocks the view of Coyote Creek as it flows into Anderson Reservoir. The highest point on this ridge is at 1502 feet, just outside the park boundary and only about 40 feet higher than the high point of the park.

This is the view looking west, near the high point of the trail at over 1460 feet. This is the highest point in the park's trail system.

The trail loops back and passes on the west side of the bay laurel trees seen earlier.

Looking towards the north boundary of the park, you can see up the Coyote Valley towards Silicon Valley.

These are some telephoto views from this spot:

This is El Toro Mountain in Morgan Hill.

The peak with the antenna on top is Coyote Peak in Santa Teresa County Park. At the foot of the hills on the left is IBM's Silicon Valley Lab. In the foreground is the Coyote Valley and Hwy 101. Hidden among the trees is Coyote Creek and the Coyote Creek Trail.

On the lower right is Coyote Ridge. Above it on the right is Communications Hill in San Jose, 20 miles away. Below it on the left side is Tulare Hill, at the head of the Coyote Valley. Above it is Valley Medical Center. The tower in the distance at the base of the mountains on the far left is Hoover Tower at Stanford University, 40 miles away.

The hills in the distance are Coyote Ridge, above Anderson Reservoir.

This is point F in the map above, where the trail makes a U-turn.

The trail turns and heads north one last time before turning around at the north end of the park and dropping back down the hill.

The trail makes a turn at the northwest corner of the park at point G in the map above. Down below the trail is a stock pond.

The trail now begins a long, gradual, relatively straight descent to the western trailhead. There are no trees in this section of the trail, so there is no shade, but since this is on the west side of the hill, there are likely to be breezes from the west.

There are rolling hills below the trail.

There are private ranchlands below the trail on the west and north of the Harvey Bear Ranch.

This is the western trailhead at point H in the map above, where it meets the Harvey Bear Trail again. Cattle graze on the hill in the distance. The Coyote Ridge Trail (not visible) runs along the west side of that hill and goes all the way down the whole park to the Mendoza Trailhead. It is a segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. If you take the Harvey Bear Trail to the right, it goes down the hill to the Willow Springs Trail, which leads to the Harvey Bear Ranch entrance.

This is the Harvey Bear Trail in-between the two trailheads of the Ed Willson Trail.

This is the bridge at the start of the Ed Willson Trail.

A deer family approaches the Harvey Bear Trail just below the junction of the Calaveras Trail.

Google Earth Maps

The maps below are from Google Earth. The blue track is the actual GPS track of the hike.

This is from the south end of the park, looking up along the ridgeline and Coyote Lake. The Ed Willson Trail is at the far north end of the park.

This is the Ed Willson Trail, looking north. Coyote Creek runs along the base of the canyon, with Nesbit Ridge on the right and Finley Ridge on the left. The south end of Anderson Reservoir can be seen in the upper left corner, but the trail doesn't quite go high enough to see it.

This is a view looking east towards Coyote Dam, with Nesbit Ridge on the left, Sheep Ridge on the right and Larios Canyon in-between. This shows how the west side of the trail descends the hill.

This is the view along the trail looking southeast along Coyote Lake.

This is the view looking south towards Gilroy.

This is the view looking west towards Morgan Hill and the Coyote Valley. This shows how the east side of the trail runs through woodlands and ascends to the top of the hill.

For more information, see the links on the side. For copies of these and other pictures, contact Ron Horii (see links).

Page created by Ron Horii, 11/13/2012, updated 4/23/13