Hiking the new Jim Donnelly Trail in Henry Coe State Park
The Jim Donnelly trail was just like every other trail in Henry Coe, climbing steeply to Wilson Ridge. Trails like this are strenuous on the way up and rough on the knees on the way down. Whoever built the trails in Coe had never heard the word “switchback”. Several trails climb the steep hillsides to Wilson Ridge (Steer Ridge, Middle Steer Ridge, Spike Jones), and none of them are easy. Someone finally managed to apply some common sense to one of the trails, and it has been rebuilt and rerouted with well graded switchbacks. It took about 2 years, but last summer the new Jim Donnelly Trail was opened much to the appreciation of mountain bikers, equestrians, and hikers alike.
I rarely go to Coe in the summer due to the heat, so we kicked off this winter/spring hiking season with my first visit to the new trail, hiking up to Wilson Peak and returning via Wilson Camp. This has always been one of my favorite loops (despite the nasty trails), and now it has been made even more pleasant. The new trail is really well graded, has excellent views, and I don’t hurt when I get to the top! We only climbed it on this visit – next time I’ll do the loop in reverse and I’m certain I’ll enjoy the lack of knee pain on the way down.
Here’s what the new trail looks like and a map of our GPS track. Watch out for newts!