Coyote lake county park located on the south east section of Santa Clara county, just east of San Martin (near Gilroy).
The large park covers the hills of the Coyote Ridge and the long and narrow Coyote lake.In the main Coyote Lake park road you can also find large camping site near the lake and a boat ramp.
The lake and campsites are popular at summertime, excellent place to hike during nice winter day.
The park has 2 main sections (with 3 main parking lots): you can go to the other side of the hills to the lake-side (paid entrance), stop on your way at Walker Ranch Parking, Coyote Lake - Harvey or visit the Westworth hills side. You can have a long hike and cover both sides of the park.
During 2020 winter months I visit many times this park.
In one of my earliest trips I did another nature photographer point me to a Bald Eagle nesting site. Unfortunately it will be very difficult to find it unless you know what and where to look for.
After that I came many times to see the two chicks grow up, I try to come after work so this was late afternoon until sunset.
The late afternoon is excellent for wild boar (pig) watching, in this park I saw many of them and even up close.
The park has 3 main parking lots that have different park visit experience:- Harvey bear to the west (nearest to 101)
- Mendoza Ranch at the south
- The main park entrance near the lake
Coyote Lake entrance:
This is the main park entrance that has the camping site, boat ramp and lake access.
There is a 4 miles long road going all the way to the north end of the lake where the large dam is located. At the end of the road there is a large parking lot and few hiking trailhead options.
Near the entrance to the park there is a large Lake view campground and after 2 mils there is a parking lot with boat ramp, after 4 mils you are reaching the large dam that create the lake.
There are many others smaller roadside parking spots and picnic area with lake access.
From most of those parking lots you can find a trail leading up the hills connecting to the park main trail system that are laid out on the hills to the west of the lake.
Mendoza Ranch entrance:
From this point most of the trails will be on the main park mountain ridge.
A recommended loop trail from this entrance (Orange trail on the map):
Take the Mendoza Trail, keep going on Mendoza Trail left when connecting with Coyote Ridge Trail, on our way back we will come from this direction.
After 0.4 mile from the parking lot turn right into narrow Mummy Mountain Trail climbing on the ridge.
After some twists and turns this single-track climb to the top of the Mummy Mountain with a very nice view of the lake and the valley to the west.
Keep going down and the trail connecting back to Mendoza Trail, turn right and after hundred feet you will reach Coyote Ridge Trail.
Here you have an option to go back to the parking lot on relatively easy trail (1.1 mile back, total of 3.6 mile loop).
If you want to extend this loop you can do this in two options, in both you keep going north on Coyote Ridge Trail.
Option 1 (additional ~3 mils):
after 0.8 mils, once you reach Blue Oak Trail turn left, after 0.6 miles you will reach Gaviota Trail, turn left and after 1.5 mils you are back at the junction (1.1 away from the parking lot).
Option 2 (additional 2.4 mils):
after 1.1 mils on Coyote Ridge Trail turn right into the nice Valley Oak Trail that will take you back to the junction you start from.
Harvey Bear entrance:
This is the northwest park entrance, closest to the 101 highway and if you are coming from the north this is 30 minutes shorter car drive compare to the main park entrance.
From this entrance you can access all the west hill slopes that are used as cattle grassland.
No shade in any trails where the large oak trees are spread across the landscape.
My recommended time to visit here is winter and spring, at summer all is dry, yellow and no protection from the sun.
There is a 1.9-mile paved trail surrounding the Western Flats meadows, very popular for locals hikers and runners.
There are few long loop hikes options:
From the northwest parking lot start hiking up on Willow Springs Trail going up the hills, after a mile you can turn left on Townpsirgns Trail.
Keep going up and after 0.1 mile turn right on Savannah Trail, If you will hike up the steep trail you will reach Coyote Ridge Trail.