Coyote Meadows to Cooper Meadow is a 3.75 mile one-way hike beginning at the Coyote Meadows Horse Camp in the Stanislaus National Forest and ending at Cooper Meadow in the Emigrant Wilderness. Cooper Meadow is titled after a rancher by the name of William F. Cooper who ranged cattle here back in the 1800’s. The area is still used to range cattle and ever since 1912 the Sanguinetti Family has owned the grazing permit to do so.
The highlight of this hike is definitely Cooper Meadow with its 140+ year old cabins that are still used today. The main cabin was built in 1875 by a man hired by W. F. Cooper. The barn next to the main cabin was built 10 years prior. The cabins are still in remarkably good shape thanks to the restoration efforts that took place in the recent past. Evidence of visitors to Cooper Meadow are apparent with the names inscribed in the cabin’s exterior walls. This includes the names of Chinese laborers that were brought here to work the ranch back in 1907.
In addition to Copper Meadow other highlights of the hike include Horse and Cow Meadow as well as the myriad of lava formations that line the ridges around Cooper Peak. These geologically sculpted monuments are extraordinary to say the least and are best viewed later in the afternoon when the warm rays of the sun are cast on the southwestern face of these magnificent carvings. It is also possible to get a face-to-face look at the lava formations by hiking up to the top of Cooper Peak but that’s another article for another day. As you approach Horse and Cow Meadow look toward the east for a view of Three Chimneys.
The trail to Cooper Meadow is a moderate level hike with less than 500 ft of elevation changed. The most difficult part is the last mile which is a 400-ft decent. Although not very steep it is very rocky and loose due to the trail being a multi-use and is frequented by animals of the hoofed variety. Just make sure you wear hiking boots with adequate traction.
The trailhead to this hike is at the Coyote Meadows Horse Camp and is accessed via Herring Creek Rd and Forest Road 4N12. Take Hwy 108 east four miles past Strawberry and turn right on Herring Creek Rd. Continue on for seven miles and turn right at the Hammill Canyon Junction, just beyond Trail of the Gargoyles. Continue on 4N12 past both Herring Creek and Herring Reservoir Campgrounds for another five miles and turn right on 5N67. Continue for another mile to the Coyote Meadows parking area on the left. One note, the last six miles of the road is all dirt and although passable by passenger vehicles, 2wd high clearance is advised.