Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek HikesLast Update: July 18, 2009
Guerneville is located along the Russian River about halfway between HWY 101 (Santa Rosa) and the Pacific Ocean (Jenner). Armstrong redwoods is located about 5 minutes east of Guerneville. It contains an amazing redwood forest that is almost the equal of Muir Woods in Marin county, and it is the closest large redwood forest to Santa Rosa. If you pay a fee to enter Armstrong Redwoods, you can drive to up to the top of a ridge. This top ridge contains the bullfrog pond camping area and trailheads leading into Austin Creek.
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Note: times are approximate. Time to trailhead assumes that the starting point is near Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa. (our main carpool meeting spot).
Directions to trailhead:
From Santa Rosa: Take HWY 101 north. Exit onto river road and head west. If you are leaving the Santa Rosa carpool spot in Coddingtown, you can save a few minutes by taking Guerneville road west, turning right/north onto Fulton, and then left again on River road. Follow river road to Guerneville. Turn right/north onto Armstrong Redwoods road. There is a stoplight there. Follow the road to the park. There is an entry booth and ranger station. If you go in, you'll have to pay the $6/car fee. We suggest turning right into the free parking lot at the entrance and starting your Armstrong woods hike from this location. Note that if you plan to hike into Austin Creek state park, you'll need to pay the fee and drive up the ridge to get to the Austin Creek trailheads.
Picture: This picture shows the end of the Armstrong woods road and the entry booth. Look for this area and turn right into the free parking lot.
There are several intertwined maps that walk along the flat valley floor of the redwood groves. This is a great place to go to show redwoods and take simple walks, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. If you desire longer hikes, there are several trails that climb up from the valley floor or return to the ranger station. We suggest you pick up a map from the Visitors center or entry booth and pick the walk you like the most.
|Setup||Duration: 0:30||First drive to the Armstrong woods ranger station parking lot. It takes about 30 minutes from Santa Rosa, and 5 minutes from Guerneville.|
|Hiking Trail||We haven't mapped out any hikes through the redwoods yet, but you can take a number of trails and spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours walking through the redwoods on the valley floor.|
|Drive Home||Duration: 0:30||It takes ~5 minutes to drive to Guerneville for dinner, or 30 minutes to return back to Santa Rosa.|
|Total||Duration: ~0:30 (+1 hr)
El. Gain: ~0ft
El. Loss: ~0ft
|This is easy exercise on flat trails with no elevation gain. You can make it more adventurous by taking some side trails.|
This is a great loop hike through the redwoods, climbing up the valley on the west (left) side to the top of the ridge in back of the park, then returning down the east side. The first half hour passes through awe inspiring redwood groves, then climbs up through other forests to some gorgeous views at the top. Since this is a loop hike, the path down covers new ground and goes through some small isolated redwood groves. There are several options: People who desire a shorter hike can leave partway up for a total of a 3 mile hike while the rest continue. On the way back, one can return to the valley floor to enjoy the main grove, or forge ahead on a lesser used trail back to the ranger station.
|Setup||Duration: 0:30||It takes 30 minutes to drive from Santa Rosa to Armstrong Redwoods. Plan for an additional 15 minutes to get meet people at the trailhead, get everyone organized, and to introduce the hike. On Sept 2005, our timings worked out to meet at Coddingtown at 11am, leave there 11:10am, and meet others at the trailhead at 11:50, then start hiking at noon.|
|Redwood Trails||Duration: 15 minutes
El. Gain: ~none
El. Loss: none
|As you enter the park, take the discovery trail to the left of the kiosk. Continue across the first road juncture onto the Pioneer trail. When you hit the second road, do not continue on Pioneer trail. Turn left onto the road for a short distance, then turn right onto the discovery trail towards Armstrong tree. Follow the road past Armstrong tree towards the horse riding area. After 0.1 miles (not far!), you will see the Pool Ridge trail on your right, heading north.|
|Pool Ridge Trail||Duration: 20 minutes
El. Gain: 503ft
El. Loss: ~0ft
|This trail takes you through more redwoods and hikes along a small creek. Shortly you'll find a series of switchbacks leaded to a trail leading off to the right/east. If you prefer the short hike, you can take a steep 0.5 mile trail (also called Pool Ridge) back down to the redwoods. Otherwise, continue upward along the main trail.|
|Pool Ridge Trail||Duration: 40 minutes
El. Gain: ~765ft
El. Loss: ~221ft
|Continue along the trail up to the top of Pool Ridge. After 0.26 miles, you'll see a loop trail. This is a very short trail that joins the main trail slightly further ahead. We take it about half the time. It will take you by some fruit trees that used to be part of a homestead for miners that used to live here. At 0.64 miles (without the loop), you'll see some trees we once climbed in and had a gourmet lunch. Silly, fun, and quite vertical.|
|East Ridge Trail (on top)||Duration: 8 minutes
El. Gain: ~70ft
El. Loss: none
|Once you reach the top, you'll find gorgeous views and a number of good places to stop for lunch. There is a road at the top. Turn right and follow the road. You'll see the Gilliam Creek trailhead to your left/north. At the same location is a small trail to the east ridge trail. Take this relatively flat trail for about 1/4 mile, and it will re-cross the same road again. It should be flat. If it keeps going downhill, then you're on the Gilliam Creek trail - turn around and go back!|
|East Ridge Trail||Duration: 1:30
El. Gain: ~234ft
El. Loss: ~1019ft
|After you cross the road again, the trail will soon fork 2 ways. Follow it east/down towards the ranger station and do not go left/north towards bullfrog pond. After crossing a couple of dirt roads and passing by a pond, you'll reach a trail junction. You can turn right/west and descend back to Armstrong woods and walk back through the cool redwoods, or you can continue straight along a slightly more difficult trail back to the ranger station parking lot.|
|East Ridge Trail
El. Gain: ~310ft
El. Loss: ~473ft
|Continue on the main trail to the ranger station. It goes over a series of 4 "humps" - you'll go up a little, then down a little. The time it takes to descend depends on how people handle downhill. It can take as little as 45 minutes, or up to 1:30 if people are having problems. It takes longer to go on the slightly more difficult trail as well.|
|Finish||Duration: 0:30||It takes about 30 minutes to drive back home to Santa Rosa.|
El. Gain: ~1870ft
El. Loss: ~1870ft
|We did this hike on Sept 2005, met 11am Coddingtown, finished 4:15pm back in Coddingtown. We took the long option for the way back, and went fairly slow coming back due to difficult knees. We also took a long :45 lunch. We estimate the hike takes ~2:45 to/from the ranger station with no lunch stop and slow going coming down. Give yourself 3:30 for a long :45 lunch, and 5:15 to carpool to/from Coddingtown with a few delays and our normal pre-hike welcome briefings.|
|2005, Sept 04
|Overview: Today was a near perfect day. The fog
had burned off by the time we got there, and while it was slightly warm,
we found a good shady spot for lunch.
Special Notes: Bring a set of walkie talkie / 2-way radios. We all went up close to the same pace, but some had wobbly knee problems going downhill (it's happened to me before) so we had a real slow group and a fast group. Everyone should take their time, and it would have gone smoother if we split into 2 groups. Plan for this ahead of time next time, prep the group, and bring 2 way radios. You might also want to mention horses use the trail and that we need to stand to the side to let them pass if we see them.
Timings: We met at Coddingtown at 11am, left there at 11:10am. We arrived at Armstrong woods about 11:50am as there was some traffic in Guerneville. The parking lot was full, so we had to park down the road a bit. We met several people there and were ready to go by 12pm. We ended up waiting until 12:15 as a late hiker showed up then decided to take off due to lack of parking and we weren't sure if they parked down the road and were coming back. They didn't. Oops! We reached the top of the ridge about 1:30pm. (1:15 to hike up) I forgot to note the time it took to the 3mile turnaround point. We had a long lunch until 2:15pm and enjoyed Antonio playing the harmonica. The group got along really well. We crossed the bridge on the way down at 2:50pm and made it to the ranger station endpoint at 3:45pm. A few people had problems with their knees coming down, so we chose to go slowly. We chose the longer route on the way back that does not go through the redwoods and lower roads, but goes over several small hills and comes out by the ranger station. We were back to Coddingtown by 4:15pm.
Team: We had 8 people sign up, 3 were maybe's and 2 wanted to do the 3-mile short hike option. 1 Maybe didn't show up, and we had 3 new people show up at the trailhead. This 10 person group got along very well, and all decided to do the full hike at the short hike turnoff point. We loosely kept together on the way up and split into 2 groups (fast, slow) for the way down.
|2007, Aug 26
|Overview: Rob did this hike with a 35
pound backpack to prepare for an upcoming backpacking trip. The short
distance and elevation gain/drop worked great. I did the mt. Tam ridge
hike (7.5 mi) the day before without a pack, and todays hike with a pack
was just enough.
Timings: It took 4 hours total. 1/2 hour to get from home to the park, just under 3 hours to hike the trail without stopping for lunch, and 1/2 hour to return home. I took about 10 2-minute breaks as going up was hard with the heavy pack and going down made my knees shake.
Please note that the Austin Creek trailheads are at ~1200 foot elevation. All trails lead down, so your return trip is hiking back up. The Austin creek trail is along a dirt road and it is exposed to the sun and very hot. Bring extra Water. Do not hike the longer trails on hot days.
Directions to trailhead:
From Santa Rosa: Take HWY 101 north. Exit onto river road and head west. If you are leaving the Santa Rosa carpool spot in Coddingtown, you can save a few minutes by taking Guerneville road west, turning right/north onto Fulton, and then left again on River road. Follow river road to Guerneville. Turn right/north onto Armstrong Redwoods road. There is a stoplight there. Follow the road to the park. There is an entry booth and ranger station. You may want to pick up people here and carpool. The trailhead has space for ~3 cars and you'll save on park fees. Pay the fees to enter the park ($6/car), and follow the road to the right and the signs to Bullfrog pond. This is a narrow road, and it will take ~15 minutes to drive from the entry booth to the trailhead. You'll climb up a ridge. Near the top, the road splits, turn left to Gilliam creek trailhead - do not go right to Bullfrog pond.
This is an awesome hike, and is fairly unique. The trail down crosses Schoolhouse and Gilliam creeks 12 times. None of these crossing goes across a bridge, but the creek is fairly shallow and can be crossed on rocks and trees. If you wear sandals, you can quickly ford the 10-12 inch deep creeks, otherwise I find it fun to look for ways across rocks and sticks.
Hike and Event Itinerary
|Setup||Duration: 1:00||It takes 30 minutes to drive from Santa Rosa to Armstrong Redwoods, and another 15 minutes to pay the fee and drive up to the Gilliam creek trailhead. We found it takes an additional 15 minutes to pick up people at the ranger station, introduce the hike, and get everyone on the trail.|
|West Gilliam Creek Trail||Duration: 1:00
El. Gain: none
El. Loss: 800 feet
Start at 1200 feet, and drop to 400 feet. You'll cross Schoolhouse creek twice, and hike though a birch forest with lots of ferns. After 2 miles, you'll reach the a short 0.1 mile trail that crosses the creek and connects to Austin Creek Trail (a dirt road). Anyone who wishes to take the short hike can cross here and return. They should have their own car at top, as it will be a long wait before the longer trail hikers return.
|East Gilliam Creek Trail||Duration: 1:40
El. Gain: ~100ft
El. Loss: ~300ft
This trail is fun - you'll cross Gilliam Creek 10 more times before you reach Austin Creek. This trail takes a while if you try to find ways across without getting wet. If you took our advice and wore Hiking Sandals (Tiva's) or are confident in high-top Gore-Tex hiking boots, you can do it much faster by hiking through each crossing. We tried to stay dry, and crossing single file took the 1:40. You'll reach Gilliam Creek trail camp at the bottom, just before Austin Creek. You may want to cross and eat lunch.
|Eastern Dirt Road||Duration: 0:13
El. Gain: level
El. Loss: level
|After crossing Austin creek, hike North along a dirt road to the Fox Mountain Trailhead. If you chose to split into 2 groups of fast/slow hikers, send the fast hikers up Fox mountain, and let the slow hikers continue along the main hike. The fast hikers may catch up to them again on the uphill return to the car.|
El. Gain: 1100
El. Loss: 1100
|Optional: If you chose to do the optional hike to Fox Mountain, you'll hike up a fairly steep dirt road through some pretty redwoods. It's about 1 mile to the fire road gate and park boundary, and another half mile to the right/north to the top of Fox mountain. This detour will add an 1100 foot climb and ascent to your hike, 3 miles total, and take about 1:30 for relatively fast hikers.|
|Eastern Dirt Road||Duration: 0:30
El. Gain: level
El. Loss: level
|Hike from Fox Mountain Trailhead to East Austin Creek and wade across. It's fairly shallow at this point, coming about halfway between the foot and the knee. Again, wearing shorts and Tiva's is a good idea.|
|Mannings Flat and Gray Creek (optional)||Duration: TBD
Distance: 1.4m or
El. Gain: level
El. Loss: level
|Optional: It's a 0.7 mile hike north to Mannings Flat Trail Camps. (elevation 300') It's another 0.7 miles past Mannings Flat to reach a gate across the fire road, where it splits into a north and east road. The East road continues for 0.3 miles to reach Gray Creek. We haven't tried this optional sub-hike yet.|
|Austin Creek Trail||Duration: 0:15
El. Gain: 200
El. Loss: level
|Hike from 2nd Austin Creek crossing to Tom King Trail Camp trail turnoff. You can do an optional hike here. We haven't tried it yet.|
|Tom King Trail Camp(optional)||Duration: TBD
El. Gain: 50
El. Loss: 50
|Optional: It's a 0.6 mile hike West to Tom King Trail Camp. (elevation 350') The trail probably dead-ends at the camp. We haven't tried this optional sub-hike yet.|
|Austin Creek Trail||Duration: 0:30
El. Gain: 400
El. Loss: 400
|Hike from Tom King Trail Camp trail turnoff to short 0.1 mile trail cutoff to Gilliam Creek Trail. This is where the short hikers came across. Stay on the Austin Creek Trail / fire road. This section of trail is a bit painful, as it climbs up over a 400' hill and back down again.|
|Austin Creek Trail||Duration: 1:00
El. Gain: 1000
El. Loss: none
|Hike from the short-hikers cutoff point up the long fire road to the main asphalt car road. This trail is almost completely exposed to the sun, and it is fairly steep. It's good to have plenty of water for this part of the hike. If you have a water purifier and everyone is out of water, you can make some more before you start this section at the cutoff point. Tired hikers may take a bit longer on this part of the trail.|
El. Gain: none
El. Loss: 200
|Follow the asphalt road to the right/west and keep to the right. It will take you back to your car at the trailhead.|
|Finish||Duration: 0:45||It takes about 40 minutes to drive back home, from the Gilliam Creek trailhead to Santa Rosa.|
El. Gain: ~1700ft
El. Loss: ~1700ft
|We did this hike 2/2005, met 9am Coddingtown, and returned to Santa Rosa at 6:12pm. We had some slow hikers join us for the short loop, and the rest were fast hikers. We did the optional 12 mile hike that includes fox mountain and this took us 1.5 hours in the middle of the hike. Estimate ~9 hours for full+fox mountain (7.5 hours trailhead->trailhead) and ~7.5-8 hours for the full hike (or 6 hours trailhead to trailhead). This includes a few breaks for lunch, and creative planning for each stream crossing.|
|2005, Feb 05||Overview: This was a great hike. It has many
beautiful vistas, and the 1-way trip covers a lot of ground. At the end
we could see the tremendous distance we had covered. Highlights of this
trip were entered above.
Special Notes: Even though it was winter, crossing the streams and creeks was easily managed. Boots with good tread are useful for a few slippery parts on the start of the Gilliam creek trail, but I found it more fun to switch to sandals at the first creek crossing and wear them through the rest of the hike. If you have hiking sandals with good grip, you won't need boots. The temp stayed cool, around 55-60 degrees all day long. We didn't drink much water, perhaps 1.5 24 oz bottles. We brought 3 in case it was hot. It was a bit cool at the start, but we hiked it in shorts and nylon long-sleeved shirts and we were fine. It was partly cloudy all day, and overcast at the end.
Timings: Sometimes we list timings to help plan future events. 9:20 left Coddingtown Carpool spot; 9:50 looked for others at the ranger station parking lot and paid our $6/car fee, 10:05 we reached the trailhead. We waited for other cars, put on our boots, and introduced the hike. This took 10-15 minutes. 10:21 started hike, 51 degree temps. XXam #1 crossed stream to South. 11:10am #2 and #3 - crossed stream to north and back to south. 11:20 reach short hike turnaround point - a few crossed stream to North to reach Austin Creek trail and return early. We didn't cross and kept going straight. 11:40am #4 Crossing to North side. 11:45am #5 Crossing to South side, saw trail sign across creek. 11:47 #6 crossing to the North. This crossing is about 20 feet downstream, and you can easily skip crossings #5 and #6 by staying on the north side of the stream. 11:54 #7 crossing to south, about 20' after #6. 12pm #8 crossing to North. 12:05pm #9 crossing to the South. 12:19, #10 crossing to North, 12:26 #11 crossing to south (can skip), 12:33 #12 crossing to North - can skip crossing #11 and #12 by staying on North of trail. 12:50 #13 reached Austin Creek. We crossed and had a short lunch. Creek is somewhat deep here. Knee deep for Rob, and slightly higher for Kerstin. We were fine crossing in shorts. Sandals on Robs feet made it easy - it was a bit harder barefoot. 1:12 started on dirt road. 1:25 reached fox mountain trailhead. We should have left packs here! We hiked fox mountain trail up and back. 1:55 reached park boundary and gate across road. Turned right/north to climb fox mountain. 2:14 reached top of fox mountain. The dirt road is pretty worn out here, but looks like it might continue back down far side. Perhaps it's worth exploring another time. Steep climb at last part, can see over ridges towards Guerneville. 2:30 made it back down to boundary. Where does this dirt road go? It looks like it goes to Cazedero. Can we do a 1-way hike there sometime? 3:02, returned to base of fox mountain trail by Austin Creek. 3:30 #14 Crossed Austin Creek again - last water crossing! Took 7 minutes to cross, eat rest of sandwich, and for Kerstin to take shoes off & put back on after wading across. Creek is fairly shallow here. 3:37 we're at junction to Manning's flat trail camps. 3:52, Reach Tom King trial camp turnoff. 4:30 Reached cutoff where short hikers came through / junction with Gilliam Creek trail. We didn't take it and continued on dirt road. 5:10 reached Vista point trail to bullfrog pond. We didn't take it. 5:22 reached asphalt road, turned right, stayed right, and followed to car. 5:37 reached car, beginnings of pretty sunset. 6:12 we got home, and it was dark outside.
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