Pacheco Falls, Willson Camp / Peak / Tower at Henry Coe State Park


Pacheco Falls is another one of those secret, seasonal, hard-to-get-to waterfalls in the Bay Area! I visited Murrietta Falls just 6 weeks ago:

The annual “Backcountry Weekend” at Henry Coe State Park was cancelled this past weekend due to an unusual downpour on friday. I wasn’t planning to go to BCW this year, though I’ve been 3 previous times and enjoyed it! I had a conflict on friday and saturday, but not sunday. I decided that with the recent rains and the temperatures expected to climb in the next week, it would be a good time to visit Pacheco Falls!

I hit the trail at the Hunting Hollow parking lot at around 9:15 after chatting with Ranger Cameron Bowers and a few other cyclists in the parking lot. The park seemed busy. Ranger Cam said there were several people who were backpacking from here, after BCW was cancelled.

A bit chilly and overcast. Perfect weather to start cycling (and pushing the bike) up Lyman-Willson Trail


…arriving at Willson Camp in 80 minutes


The biggest climb of the day was done, now it was just “typical Coe” for awhile: ups-and-downs of a few hundred feet, again, and again, and again…

6 miles in, looking back from where I came, at the turnoff to Wasno Pond:


After about 12 miles and 3 hours, I finally reached the turnoff to Pacheco Falls. From here it drops about 800 feet on 0.9 miles


Wood Duck Pond, about 1/3 the way down to the Falls. At this spot I chatted with the 5th backpacker of the day. (I has seen 2 other singles and a couple…I had seen nobody on my previous trips out here)


…and down some more into the canyon. By now I had ditched my bike.


The falls…a bit disappointing! I was expecting a bit of “gushing”. I guess all the rain, less than 48 hours earlier, had soaked into the parched earth. It’s still a magical oasis in the middle of nowhere with small fish and dragonflies (and lotsa poison oak). The water was trickling slowly.


I then slogged back up to the bike and the (ahem) “main” road. By early afternoon, it was no longer cool and overcast. It was a beautiful day, with some interesting cloud formations on a breezy day.


I decided to visit Live Oak Spring, which was just a few hundred feet off my path. I didn’t require more water, but it would make me a bit more comfortable if I grabbed another liter.


The Live Oak Spring trough was full, but a bit slimy. Usually I can grab water dripping directly from the fill tube. In this case, there was a float valve, which was completely inaccessible under the wood platform. It was securely nailed-down and definitely had some work done on it since the “Springs Report” of 2 months ago:

I also climbed a bit uphill towards the source, as well as looked downhill. I wanted CLEAN water to filter, not the algae and “mountain lion saliva” in the trough. Alas, this spring was recently “improved” and fresh clean water was not accessible without being destructive. I filtered from the slimy trough and am still healthy after 24 hours. (Katadyn Hiker filter) This is NOT a human-friendly design. Why not an exposed “fill tube”?

(Update: The Coe volunteer that designed and built this protected fill system tells me that there’s been vandalism(?!?) here twice. The float valve system was seriously damaged. This spring feeds into the more important water system at Pacheco Camp, which was also impacted.)


More glorious scenery, as the miles ticked by…notice the trail in the middle of the hillside, across the valley:


Willson Tower, which is not on the map. It has a fascinating logbook dating back 11 years. It was originated, and still used by Geocachers, but is now maintained by mountain bikers.


Wasno Pond, from where I left the Wagon Road. I wanted to try the Tule Pond Trail for the first time


A beautiful trail, with some shade and healthy spring grass!


Wow! Just across the road from Tule Pond (visible at left) was a huge group of “Goldfield” flowers.


Sam Drake was here, in a year with much better rainfall, and took an incredible photo just past the spot where I stopped!

Tule Pond area, Spring 2010 Courtesy of Sam Drake

Tule Pond area, Spring 2010
Courtesy of Sam Drake

The pond, next the flowers. Note the guy fishing, in the red shirt, on the opposite side!


As I passed by the big serpentine outcropping, where the Serpentine Trail brought me out near Willson Peak, I was almost DONE climbing! About a mile to get to the top of the newly re-routed Jim Donnelly, then a fun 3+ miles of nicely graded curves to the parking lot!


25 miles and 6000 vertical feet. “Moving time” of ~6 hours and total elapsed time of just over 8 hours.

GPS track here:

About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Pacheco Falls, Willson Camp / Peak / Tower at Henry Coe State Park

  1. Thanks for the great account and beautiful photos. I used to be a Coe Park volunteer, now own property north of the park. You show some places in the park I’ve never been. I think I recognize Red Mountain in one of those photos!

  2. Pingback: Nisene Marks State Park & “Oh! What’s This? A Brewpub?” (Sante Adairius) | AlphaRoaming

  3. Pingback: Orestimba Wilderness, Rooster Comb, Robison Creek @ Henry Coe State Park | AlphaRoaming

  4. Pingback: Orestimba Wilderness, Rooster Comb, Robison Creek @ Henry Coe State Park | AlphaRoaming

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s