Paradise Lake - Paradise Flats, Henry Coe State Park: Dowdy Draw, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Paradise Lake - Paradise Flats - 26.2 miles
Henry Coe State Park: Dowdy Draw
|Round-Trip Length:||26.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,672' - 1,250' (1,672' max elevation at Trailhead)|
|Elevation Change:||-422' net elevation loss (+3,200' total round trip elevation gain)|
Paradise Lake - Paradise Flats - 26.2 Miles Round-Trip
Henry Coe State Park is the largest state park in Northern California with 87,000 acres that include the Orestimba and Pacheo Wilderness Areas. This land is part of the Mount Hamilton Range subdivision of the greater Diablo Range, a 50 mile long and 30 mile wide span of rugged, northwest-trending ridges cut by narrow stream valleys.
Paradise Lake is located 13.1 miles from Dowdy Draw Trailhead in the Orestimba Wilderness, a small but reliable water source for area wildlife. It lies adjacent to Paradise Flats, a 150 acre expanse of grassy meadows around the confluence of Red Creek and Orestimba Creek. This flat area stands out in an otherwise hilly landscape.
The trail to Paradise Lake leaves from Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center, located 7 miles north of Highway 152:
From Dowdy Ranch, head across the dirt lot to find the trailhead. The trail immediately drops 850' through chaparral and bends NW along the North Fork of Pacheo Creek (1.25 miles : 765').
It undulates across Pacheo Creek (2.0 miles : 830') to Kaiser Aetna Road (2.5 miles : 835'). Turn right on Kaiser Aetna Road, which climbs 800' in just over 2 miles. This strenuous climb is fully exposed and can be very hot during peak summer months.
The road crests (4.6 miles : 1,600') and begins a moderate descent past the following splits with access to the following destinations:
- 5.0 miles, 1,424' - Tie Down Peak
- 5.6 miles, 1,395' - County Line Road
- 6.1 miles, 1,335' - Mustang Peak
- 6.2 miles, 1,330' - Mississippi Lake
At 6.4 miles Kaiser Aetna Road enters the Orestimba Corral. Follow the road through the corral then turn left onto the Orestimba Creek Trail (6.6 miles: 1,335').
The trail leads away from Kaiser Aetna Road and narrows up and over sandy washes with hidden potholes of water. It crosses Orestimba Creek several times (7.5 miles : 1,350') en route to Orestimba Creek Fire Road (8.5 miles : 1,190'). Turn left onto the road.
The road undulates for the next two miles through desert-like scrub on rocky terrain, with little-no water on this hot, exposed stretch. It passes the split for Mustang Pong (10.5 miles : 1,205') where canyon walls rise higher above a loose rock and sand path.
Conditions remain this way for 1.5 miles to the split for Paradise Flats (12.0 miles : 1,080'). Anticipate this split, as it's easy to miss.
Turn left (west) at the split for Paradise Flats and rise above the canyon floor through chaparral and oak into the open grassy meadows of Paradise Flats (12.2 miles : 1,150').
The trail levels on a fire road along the the east side of the flats to the Paradise Lake Trail (12.8 miles : 1.250'), which bends right (north) for .3 miles to Paradise Lake (13.1 miles : 1,330').
- N37 06.755 W121 21.452 — 0.0 Miles: Dowdy Ranch Trailhead - Visitor Center
- N37 07.481 W121 21.452 — 1.25 miles: Follow North Fork of Pacheo Creek - 765'
- N37 07.732 W121 22 133 — 2.0 miles: Cross North Fork of Pacheo Creek - 830'
- N37 07.835 W121 22.499 — 2.5 miles: Turn right on Kaiser Aetna Road - 835'
- N37 08.624 W121 22.718 — 3.5 miles: Steep climb up Kaiser Aetna Road - 1,175'
- N37 09.235 W121 23.331 — 4.6 miles: Crest of hill - descent to Orestimba Corral - 1,600'
- N37 09.566 W121 23.511 — 5.0 miles: Split for Tie Down Peak - 1,424'
- N37 09.772 W121 23.895 — 5.6 miles: Split for County Line Road - 1,395'
- N37 10.126 W121 23.721 — 6.1 miles: Split for Mustang Peak - 1,335'
- N37 10.279 W121 23.733 — 6.1 miles: Split for Mississippi Lake - 1,330'
- N37 10.397 W121 23.722 — 6.4 miles: Orestimba Corral - 1,325'
- N37 10.504 W121 23.672 — 6.6 miles: Left onto Orestimba Creek Trail - 1,335'
- N37 11.109 W121 23.680 — 7.5 miles: Continuing on Orestimba Creek Trail - 1,350'
- N37 11.478 W121 23.223 — 8.5 miles: Turn left onto Orestimba Creek Road - 1,190'
- N37 11.796 W121 23.026 — 9.0 miles: 2nd split for Mississippi Lake - 1.170'
- N37 12.310 W121 22.377 — 10.0 miles: Continuing on Orestimba Creek Road - 1,145'
- N37 12.584 W121 21.982 — 10.5 miles: Split for Mustang Pond - 1,205'
- N37 13.650 W121 21.813 — 12.0 miles: Turn left at hidden trail split for Paradise Flats - 1,080'
- N37 13.910 W121 22.599 — 12.8 miles: Turn right at split for Paradise Lake - 1,250'
- N37 14.099 W121 22.598 — 13.1 miles: Paradise Lake - 1,330'
- Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees in the dry season. Always carry extra water and full sun protection.
- Henry Coe State Park is located in the Mount Hamilton Range subdivision of the greater Diablo Range. The Diablo Range is an area 50 miles long and 30 miles wide, consisting of rugged, northwest-trending ridges and generally narrow, intervening stream valleys. Mount Hamilton, 4,372 feet in elevation, is the highest point of land in the range, and is located 9 miles north of the park.
- There are 74 reservoirs located throughout the park area that capture and store local surface water runoff. Most of these reservoirs cover less than one acre. Only three reservoirs Mississippi Lake, Colt Reservoir, and Kelly Cabin Canyon Reservoir are large enough to require certification with the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Dam Safety.
- Eighty springs are known to exist in the park; 71 of these are located in the Upper Coyote Creek watershed. Those named on USGS maps include Deer Horn Springs, Madrone Soda Springs, Bear Springs, and Board Springs.
- There is no guarantee that the gate to Dowdy Ranch will be open in the morning exactly on time, in fact, it rarely is. To be safe, arrive an hour after the slated opening time and leave an hour before the slated closing time.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry camping is permitted in the wilderness. Permit is required and can be purchased onsite at the Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center. Please call park headquarters at 408-779-2728 for the latest parking / permit fee per person.
The Dowdy Ranch Entrance does not have any developed camping facilities available. You can leave your car overnight if you register to backpack, bicycle, or horse camp at least 1/2 mile beyond Dowdy Ranch Day Use Area. If you leave your vehicle for an extended period of time you will not be able to leave the park until the entrance facility is open. Dogs are not allowed beyond the Day Use Area and are not allowed on trails.
Fishing is permitted with a valid CA state fishing license. As lakes are not restocked, catch and release is highly recommended.
Rules and Regulations
- This is a fee area - please call the park at 408-779-2728 for the latest entry fee.
- No dogs permitted on any trails.
- Mountain Bikers are not allowed in the Oristimba Wilderness and will be cited when stopped - the area is regularly patrolled by Henry Coe Law Enforcement Rangers.
- Absolutely no fires permitted of any kind. No smoking or firearms allowed.
Directions to Trailhead
The Dowdy Ranch / Bell's Station entrance is located off Highway 152, five miles east of the 152 / 156 Interchange at the Bell's Station Restaurant Road, located on the north side of Highway 152. Turn left and proceed seven miles over unpaved gravel road to the Dowdy Ranch Park entrance on your right.
This entrance is open Friday through Sunday during operating hours listed above. The gate at Bell's Station and at the Visitor Center will be locked every night so there is no nightime access. There is no parking allowed on Kaiser-Aetna road.
Note: Staffing is limited at Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center which can cause the Bell's Station Gate to be opened later in the morning usually 9am. If the Visitor Center is closed you must self-register using the "Self Registration & Fee Payment" envelopes provided. Display the completed permit on the dashboard of your vehicle.
Henry Coe State Park Headquarters