Backpacking: Manzanita Ridge at Henry Coe State Park

Backpacking manzanita ridge

The Hike

Three miles, with elevation gain loss of +/- 500 to 600 feet depending on which group camp you stay at and which route you take.

The first part of the hike has three options. The ranch road follows the crest of the ridge, so it has more views and a bit more climbing. The Springs Trail is on the sunny south side of the ridge, going mostly through meadow. The Forest Trail is on the shady north side of the ridge. The Forest Trail also has a nature booklet and is great for doing some tree and plant identification.

I like to go out on the ridge-top ranch road and return on the Forest Trail.
There are ten group camp sites stretched out along about a half mile of trail. Personally, I like site 10, at the end. It has a big meadow to run around in and some trees for protected camping spaces. it also has a nice view to the west. Site 5 is on top of a knoll and is also a a nice spot. Several of them are nice, really.

Why Go Here?

In all the times I’ve camped here, there has never been anyone in another group camp site. Maybe a group at the horse camp, but I think that was only during the day. The sites have plenty of room, picnic tables, and quiet nights.

The hike along Manzanita Ridge is a guaranteed opportunity for Scouts to do the nature requirements for Second Class and First Class (ten animals and ten plants). I always see a dozen or more wild animals on this loop—wild turkeys, quail (usually by sound), hawks, vultures, owl pellets, meadow dug up by wild pigs, pocket gophers—it’s a long list. Don’t miss the Acorn Woodpecker granary tree where the three trails meet at the south end of the ridge.

The Forest Trail is a nature trail with numbered markers, starting at the south end, but the brochures aren’t always stocked at the start of that trail, so see if the visitor center has a copy.

A split hike option is possible here, with a challenging hike over to Middle Ridge, then down to Poverty Flat and back up to the group camps. This is a great workout for a Philmont shakedown.

Stop by the visitor center at headquarters and ask about water conditions and weather. The water varies from none to not enough, but it is conversation. While you are there, you can buy their nice guides to the plants and animals of the park. You can even buy a patch. We know it is real Scouting when there is a patch.

Reservations and Planning

The Manzanita Point group camps do not have water. Each group can bring one vehicle in to carry water and other things. That vehicle will stay in the campsite. The road is pretty rutted and steep in places. I’ve driven it in a minivan, but some people would not be comfortable doing that.

The have been putting in new vault toilets and some water tanks, so that situation might have improved. Call and ask for details.

The group sites are $75 per night, plus an $8 service fee. Two vehicles are allowed only for transferring equipment to and from the camp site. They cannot park there overnight. If the road is wet, four wheel drive might be a good idea, though I’ve driven it wet in a minivan.

Reservations can be made six months in advance.

Coe is hot and dry in the summer. Winter and spring are the best times to go.

Large areas of Henry Coe State Park were burned in the 2020 SCU Lightning Complex fire, but this portion of the park was not affected.

Links and Resources

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