Easily accessible ancient redwood forest
HIGHLIGHTS: Just a few miles north of the Russian River at Guerneville, Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek are complementary parks totaling more than 6,000 acres. At Armstrong, you can experience the positively breathtaking ancient redwood forest. Walk just a tenth of a mile from the visitor center, and you can gaze at the reserve’s tallest tree, the 310-foot Parson Jones. In another four-tenths of a mile, you can stand beside the reserve’s oldest tree, the 1,400-year-old Armstrong.
Armstrong Redwoods is shady and protected, a reminder of the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. The park offers self-guided nature trails, horseback riding, and a variety of picnic facilities.
ACTIVITIES: Armstrong Redwoods SNR offers visitors a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and numerous picnic areas. The most well-known feature is the Pioneer Nature Trail, which meanders through a mile and a half of stunning redwood forest. This trail is mostly flat and level, with one set of steps.
Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, forest walks, and Junior Ranger programs) start on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check the schedule for days and times. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring with other children.
Bicycling is allowed on main roads only. Horseback riding is allowed on the East Austin and Pool Ridge trails in the summer; horses are not allowed on Pioneer or Discovery Trails.
VISITOR CENTER: The visitor center is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (707) 869-2958 for more information.
CAMPGROUNDS: There are no campgrounds at Armstrong Redwoods SNR. However, visitors can camp at Austin Creek State Recreation Area’s Bullfrog Pond, which is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods SNR and accessed via the same parking area. Campsites are available throughout the year, first-come, first-served.
TRAILS: Take the Pioneer Trail to the Armstrong Tree. This one-mile round trip starts out from the visitor center parking lot. In a tenth of a mile you’ll be at the base of the park’s tallest tree, the 310-foot Parson Jones. In another four-tenths of a mile, you’ll be at the reserve’s oldest tree, the 1,400-year-old Armstrong. It was named for Colonel James Armstrong, the lumberman who won protection for this area in the 1870s. From there, the trail loops around the tree and back to the parking lot.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The remarkable Icicle Tree was named for its huge, strange-looking burls, which are outgrowths. It’s about one-third mile from the Armstrong Tree, on a trail that heads to the east. If you’re in the reserve in March or April, look for delicate, pink-to-purple calypso orchids.
HIDDEN GEM: If you’re visiting in winter or spring, don’t miss Armstrong’s frothy waterfall, a short uphill hike on the East Ridge trail, just above the picnic area.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Parking, picnic areas, Pioneer Nature Trail, Discovery Trail, and Armstrong Nature Trail. Wheelchair with big tires available.
DOGS: Not allowed on trails or dirt roads. On leash elsewhere.
ENTRANCE FEE: $8 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to walk or bike into the park.
SPECIAL EVENTS: School and Adult Group Docent-Led Tours at Armstrong Redwoods. Docents are available for special redwood ecology school group tours as well as adult group tours.
Celebrate Armstrong’s Annual Old Grove Festival. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods presents the fest in the Forest Theater, a natural amphitheater located in the heart of the reserve. Enjoy musical and theatrical productions that help Stewards raise funds to support its educational and stewardship programs, as well as continued advocacy for ALL state parks. The event is held annually in September. Check out the web site for more event Information and to RSVP (external link).
FAVORITE HIKE: The Discovery and Pioneer Trails wander along the canyon floor through the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in Sonoma County.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: The ancient redwoods! Jan Corazza, former League staff member, says “What I love most about Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is that it is relatively close to San Francisco (about 75 miles), yet has the feel of a much more remote park. For visitors and others who would like to experience the redwoods beyond Muir Woods, this is fairly accessible, and positively breathtaking.”
DON’T MISS: Be sure to check out Austin Creek State Recreation Area. It’s accessed by the same entrance as Armstrong Redwoods State Park.
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Acres Protected by the League: 6,000
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