Horse Camping at Henry Coe

Last weekend I was bored and browsing the internet looking for places to go riding when I saw that the horse camp at Henry Coe was available. I booked it and we started planning. The camp has 2 small pens, which is great because I don’t think ours would stay tied all night. However, there are multiple pages on the website warning campers that the drive to the park and then to the campsite is not easy:

  • “If you’re going to be driving a large mobile home or pulling a trailer, keep in mind that the road to the park has narrow, almost one-lane sections and several tight hairpin turns and blind curves.”
  • “However the 13-mile stretch of road to headquarters is narrow, steep and twisty.” 
  • “Nothing larger than a two-horse trailer is allowed on the 2-mile stretch of dirt road to the camp.”
  • “Four-wheel drive is recommended. Rain may cancel access to camp.”

Anyway, we made it, but it was not an easy drive and it was scary at some points. Especially going around blind turns that were so narrow that 2 cars could not really fit and we had a trailer cutting into the turn as well. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of traffic leaving the park so it was possible to get there. The drive out to the campsite on the one-lane dirt road was pretty epic too:

It’s times like this I’m so glad we got a 4×4 Diesel F250. This truck really steps up to challenges like this. Plus, we can camp in the back of it:

We can fit a double sized inflatable mattress in the back and still have 2 feet of space to store things. Plus, we stay dry no matter if it rains.

Once we got to the campsite and kicked out a troop of boyscouts who were eating their lunch there, we unloaded the horses and then separated the truck and trailer so we could get in and out of the truck bed easily.

While we were doing this, the horses quickly settled in to eating anything within their reach in the pens. This also allowed Shasta to calm down and dry off a bit. She was actually drenched and dripping sweat when we pulled her off. Nilla was not – so it wasn’t a heat issue, it was a pissed off at being in the trailer issue.

I also discovered why Nilla’s leg was so swollen (though I forgot to take a picture of it). When I started grooming her to tack up, I found her leg all cut up and bloody. Shasta had been kicking her! So that solves that mystery. Nilla will now get trailered with shipping boots on. We own them, but I never like to use them because of the heat. But I also don’t want her getting kicked. Long term, the plan is to install a full panel between the two sides of the trailer. I actually wanted a trailer with this, but buying used meant I had to compromise.

I treated the wounds which were all superficial and she was sound so we went for a ride. Unfortunately there are not a lot of horse trails in this end of the park – the eastern end has more, but this was the end with an open spot this weekend. We’ll try the other side another time. We took the road we came in on to China Hole trail to Manzanita Point. The Manzanita trees are really cool – bright red and many of them formed tunnels you rode through. The trail was not really designed for riders though so we were ducking branches all the time.

We did come out at Manzanita point to a lovely view of the valley and ridge.

Then we started the descent from hell. We basically dropped 1000 feet in elevation in a little over 1 mile. There were some switchbacks, but not enough so it was pretty steep. And as there continued to be trees at rider height, I got off and walked down. I need to punch more holes in my breeching and tighten it up for hills like this. As we were walking down, Nilla was eating everything she could reach including poison oak and then moss off a tree.

I own an Elk apparently

When we finally got to the bottom, we had to cross a creek and Shasta had a mini tantrum about it before finally giving up and crossing. I walked Nilla across and then hopped on. We rode down the road a bit and had to cross the creek again. This time Shasta marched right through and Nilla crossed as well. And then we got to go back up the freaking mountain. It was not nice gradual switchbacks, it was a steep fire road and it looked like this:

Here’s the elevation chart from our ride: elevation is in blue (speed in red):
It was actually closer to a 4.5 mile ride, my husband didn’t turn the tracker on until we were about a 1/2 mile out. Here’s our route:
When we got back to camp, we stripped tack and took them down to the pond to get a drink. Nilla was more interested in being a Manatee and eating seagrass water grass than drinking.
Manatee Mule

We returned to the camp and set up our picnic table and ate some chips and dip and relaxed reading and chatting. The campsite was great with tons of oak trees shading everything.

 Because I was worried the horses weren’t drinking enough I mixed up their beet pulp with a ton of water. Shasta proceeded to drool half that water all over her pen:

We had turkey burgers on our little campgrill and then s’mores. I love a campfire and really think it’s one of the best parts of camping. I also really like car camping because we can have real food, not just backpacker stuff. 

We sat by the fire reading and relaxing before going into the truck to watch a movie on our iPad. It did get rather cold over night and I wish we had brought the horses’ blankets. They haven’t been blanketed in weeks, so I didn’t even think about it, but I should have though it would be colder up in the hills and they didn’t have a shelter to go into. They had hay and honestly seemed fine, so I’m not too worried about it, but next time I’ll pack more.

As this is already super long, I’ll cover Sunday’s adventures in the next post.

If anyone else has ever been horse camping, I’d love to hear about it and any tips and tricks to use for the future.

8 thoughts on “Horse Camping at Henry Coe

  1. Carly

    That campsite is beautiful! I've never been camping with my horse before, but it's definitely something I'd love to do with a group of friends!

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