Mount Sizer and Jackass Peak, Henry Coe
Another beautiful spring weekend in the Bay Area means two things: allergies and hiking. I don’t let the first get in the way of the second, although here I sit on Monday regretting it a little bit (acHOO!) Despite my sniffles and sneezes, I joined some friends for the classic Henry Coe hike to Mount Sizer. Although it is a relatively uninteresting bump along Blue Ridge, Sizer is the highest point in the park and that makes it a worthy destination.
Henry Coe is a hard park to hike in. I’ve heard that people don’t hike Coe to train for the Sierra, they hike the Sierra to train for Coe. When starting from the park headquarters, all the trails pretty much start off relatively harmless, but if you want to get anywhere you’re going to be doing a lot of steep up and down. The ridges in the park run north-to-south, but many of the trails run east-to-west. Sizer is on Blue Ridge, which is two ridges over from the Headquarters. So to get to Sizer, it’s about seven miles of up and down one way.
There is no ‘go up to get to the peak, go down to get back’ here. It’s up and down the whole way. While I appreciate the variety, it does get a bit frustrating to continue to lose the elevation you’ve just worked so hard to gain. The peak is only a few hundred feet higher than headquarters, yet a there-and-back hike involves a minimum of 4500 ft of climbing. Still, it’s a fun hike that gives a good workout, some amazing wildflowers (at this time of year), and nice peeks into the deep Coe backcountry.
I last visited Sizer back in March 2007. Since then, the enormous Lick fire passed through the area and it was amazing to see the differences. Previously I was a bit disappointed in the lack of views from the top of the ridge, but all of the vegetation has been burned away and the views are amazing. Wildflowers are enjoying the replenished soil and are blooming everywhere. It is definitely interesting to see the contrast.
If you do a loop that takes you through Poverty Flat, don’t miss the bonus peak! Right next to the trail is a little knoll that is labelled on the map as “Jackass Peak”. I couldn’t resist bagging another named peak so I took the extra two minutes to run up to the top.
If You Go
- There is currently a day use fee of $8 to park at Headquarters. There is no gate so you can come in early and pay via the iron ranger.You’ll want an early start, especially if you want to get up the “Shortcut” while it’s still cool in the morning. This is a stretch of trail about 5 miles in that climbs 1700 feet in 1.3 sun-exposed miles.