Hike to a Swim Hole

Long hikes on a summer day call for a cooling-off period. Dip in! This 10-miler (round-trip) rewards with…

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Want to do it Did it


Long hikes on a summer day call for a cooling-off period. Dip in! This 10-miler (round-trip) rewards with a mid-hike swimming hole. Located in the South Bay’s vast and scenic Henry W. Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill, China Hole loop is a challenging 10-mile journey through grassy hills and chaparral, and down a canyon to creek-side woodlands and the hike’s namesake swimming hole. Start at the Coe Headquarters Park Entrance, where you’ll find the visitor center as well as the trailhead for Corral Trail, the first section of your loop. Madrones and bay trees offer cooling shade for most of the length of Corral Trail, which you’ll follow to the Springs Trail junction.

Proceed onto Springs Trail, a wide and open section (for this part, we recommend a hearty amount of sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat for heat protection). Continue along Springs Trail to its end, and from there follow Manzanita Point Road until you reach two signs on the left and right for the China Hole Trail. Be sure to take the route to the left (the route to your right will be where you come out on the return journey). Here the landscape transitions as the trail descends into chaparral, displaying manzanitas, madrones, and chamise. Eventually, you’ll find yourself alongside China Hole itself.

Though there is no signage, you’ll be able to identify the swimming area fairly easily by keeping an eye out for the deepest point of the creek, surrounded by a rocky beach. Once you’re ready to climb back out of the canyon, connect to Mile Trail; this trail requires traversing creeks, but in summer the water level is low enough to use rocks as stepping stones. Follow Mile Trail up to Madrone Soda Springs, which leads back to Manzanita Point Road, where you can trace your steps back to Corral Trail and the visitor center.

From Hwy. 101 in Morgan Hill, take the E. Dunne Ave. exit and go east past Anderson Lake and then 10 miles further along the narrow, winding road to the park headquarters. Allow 30 minutes from the freeway exit. Parking is available near the park headquarters; day-use fee $8.00. Be sure to pack a good amount of water for this long, strenuous hike. Note: Water levels vary in swim holes, use caution and common sense; this is not a place to go diving or cannonballing into water; instead, wade in and enjoy. No dogs.


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