Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

California, United States
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 (1 vote, 1 review)
The serene, majestic beauty of this Grove is a living reminder of the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. Armstrong Redwoods preserves stately and magnificent Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the coast redwood. These trees stand together as a testament to the wonders of the natural world. The grove offers solace from the hustle and bustle of daily life, offering the onlooker great inspiration and a place for quiet reflection.

The ancient coast redwood is the tallest living thing on our planet! These remarkable trees live to be 500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stand from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2,000 years and tower above 350 feet. Coast redwoods are classified as temperate rainforests and they need wet and mild climates to survive. The rainfall in Armstrong Redwoods averages 55 inches per year and the trees are often shrouded in a mystical fog that helps to maintain the moist conditions needed for the redwoods to survive.

The reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and a variety of picnic facilities. While you can drive into the park, the best way to experience the dramatic affect of the towering redwoods, is to park in the lot at the park entrance and walk in for free. All of the main park features are found along the Pioneer Nature Trail. This trail is a mile and a half long round trip, mostly flat and level with one set of steps.

Although no camping is available in the redwood grove, there is a campground at Austin Creek State Recreation Area, which is adjacent to the park. Austin Creek is accessed through the same entrance as Armstrong Redwoods and its rolling hills, open grasslands, conifers, and oaks are a beautiful and dramatic contrast to the dense canopy of the redwood grove.

The redwood ecosystem is a very fragile one. Every effort is being made to preserve and protect this grove but it can only be done with your help. When you visit, please do not disturb or remove any natural features of the park, stay on designated trails and do not cross low- level fence line. We hope you enjoy a serene and rejuvenating visit among these inspiring giants.

NOTE: Dogs must be controlled on a leash at ALL times during your visit to our parks. We only allow you to have your dogs on paved roads, in developed picnic areas or your Bullfrog Pond campsite. Dogs are NOT allowed on any dirt trail or dirt road. If camping, your pet will need to stay in your tent or in your vehicle overnight.
Seasons/Climate/Recommended Clothing
In summer, the weather can be changeable; morning fog can blanket the grove and cool the air while afternoon temperatures can warm the Grove. Many trails lead into the upper hills of Austin Creek where temperatures can soar above 100 degrees. Layered clothing and plenty of water is recommended.

In the springtime, wildflowers are prolific, temperatures are mild and the fog is less frequent.

In winter, temperatures drop but remain moderate. Rain nourishes the grove and brings life to the many plants and ferns, turning the understory into a green, lush carpet. A sweater and rain jacket will allow you to enjoy the special tranquility found in the grove as water drops work their magic.
Operating Hours & Contact
The park is open from 8am to one hour after official sunset.

The visitor center is open from 11am to 3pm daily.

Telephone: 707-869-2015
Features of the Grove
The Tallest Tree: The Parson Jones Tree is the tallest tree in the grove, measuring more than 310 feet in height. This is longer than the length of a football field. An easy .1 mile walk from the park entrance.

The Oldest Tree: The Colonel Armstrong Tree is the oldest tree in the grove, estimated to be over 1,400 years old. It is named after a lumberman who chose to preserve this portion of the park in the 1870's. This magnificent tree is located a half-mile walk from the park entrance.

The Icicle Tree: This tree shows the unusual burl formations often found on redwood trees. Burls can weigh many tons and grow hundreds of feet above the forest floor. Why these growths occur remains a mystery.

The Discovery Trail: This trail offers a wheelchair accessible pathway, interpretive panels in Braille, and tree hugging platforms.

Armstrong Nature Trail: This self-guided nature trail is an easy stroll through the grove and is also wheelchair accessible. Our volunteer trail guides may be available for larger groups through Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.
Activities
Picnics
Our picnic area is 3/4 of a mile from the park entrance. Grills, tables, and restrooms are situated beneath the tall trees and seasonal creeks meander throughout the park during the winter months.

A group picnic area is available on a reservation basis. Group size is strictly limited to a maximum of 150 people. The fee for up to 100 people is $190.00. This includes a $35.00 use fee plus a non-refundable $15.00 reservation fee. A 14 day cancellation notice is required for a refund of the use fee. For groups of more than 100 there is a charge of .50 per person. The day-use fee will be waived for up to ten vehicles. Additional vehicles will be charged standard day use fees. To reserve the Group Picnic Area please contact Liz Beale at 707-865-2394. There is no electrical service in the picnic area and AMPLIFIED MUSIC IS PROHIBITED. We offer two sites within Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for wedding ceremonies. Anyone interested in having a wedding ceremony should contact Liz Beale at our district office for more information. Facilities include: 9 large picnic tables that can seat 150 people, 1 large BBQ pit, 3 standard size picnic grills, and nearby restrooms. This is a popular facility and we recommend booking early!

Suggested Walks and Hikes
Easy 1 Mile: Take the Pioneer Trail from the park entrance to the Armstrong Tree and Forest Theater, returning via the same route.

Easy 1.7 Miles: Take the Pioneer Trail from the park entrance to the Armstrong Tree, then to the picnic area, and return.

Moderate 2.2 Miles with a 400' climb: Take the East Ridge Trail from the front parking lot to the picnic area and return to the entrance via the Pioneer Trail.

Moderate 2.3 Miles with a 500' climb: Take the Pioneer Trail from the entrance to the Armstrong Tree. Then take the Pool Ridge Trail to the picnic area. Return to the entrance via the Pioneer Trail.

Moderate to Strenuous 3.3 Miles: This is a combination of the above two hikes. Take the East Ridge trail from the front parking lot to the picnic area. Then take the Pool Ridge Trail to the Armstrong Tree and return to the entrance via the Pioneer Trail.

Advanced Level Hikes
The following hikes begin in Armstrong Redwoods and wind their way into the rolling hills, forests, and grasslands of Austin Creek State Recreation Area - a dramatic contrast to the cool, moist, redwood grove.

Strenuous 5.6 Miles with 1100' climb: Take the East Ridge Trail from the front parking lot to the Gilliam Creek trailhead. Loop back down to the Grove by taking the Pool Ridge Trail to the Armstrong Tree. Return to the entrance via the Pioneer Trail.

Strenuous 9 Miles with 1500' climb. Take the East Ridge Trail from the front parking lot to Bullfrog Pond Campground. Return via the trail or road to the Pool Ridge Trailhead, taking this trail back to the Grove. Return to the entrance via the Pioneer Trail.

Guided Armstrong Nature Trail group hikes are available by appointment only, and are typically offered for larger groups. For further information, contact Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods at 707-869-9177.

Horseback Riding
All trails are closed to equestrian use through the winter season. However, when conditions permit, the trails are opened, usually during our peak season in summer. Make sure to call ahead before your visit to find out if the trails are open. Trailers can be parked in our front parking lot or in the east parking lot of the picnic area. No trailers of any type are allowed into the Austin Creek State Recreation Area due to the narrow, one lane, steep and winding mountain road.

Horse rentals are available though a private company that is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods. For more information visit the Armstrong Woods Pack Station website or call them at 707-887-2939.
Park Restrictions
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve or Austin Creek State Recreation Area. Bicycles are allowed on service roads only. Horses are not allowed on the Pioneer or Discovery Trails but are permitted on East Austin Creek and Pool Ridge Trails (when the season is open to horses.). Please respect all private property and no trespassing signs when hiking, stay on designated trails, and do not cross low-level fencing.
Park History
During the 1870s, this area was set aside as a natural park and botanical garden by Colonel James Armstrong, a lumberman who recognized the beauty and natural value of the forests he harvested. After his death, Armstrong's daughter and the Le Baron family mounted an energetic campaign involving public meetings, rallies and car-caravans to direct public attention to the need to preserve this last remnant of the once mighty redwood forest. Their efforts were successful, and in 1917 the County of Sonoma passed an initiative to purchase the property for $80,000.

The grove was managed by Sonoma County until 1934 when the State took over. In 1936 the grove was opened to the public as Armstrong Redwoods State Park. The grove's status was changed to a reserve in 1964 when a greater understanding of its ecological significance prompted a more protective management of the resource.
About Coast Redwoods
Coast redwoods range from southern Oregon to central California, extending not more than fifty miles inland- only as far as the coastal climate has its influence. Fog plays a vital role in the survival of these trees, protecting them from the summer drought conditions typical of this area. They also need abundant winter rain and moderate year round temperatures. In ideal conditions a coast redwood can grow 2-3 feet in height annually, but when the trees are stressed from lack of moisture and sunlight they may grow as little as one inch per year.

Because these trees are so tall, the treetop needles are exposed to more dry heat than the needles of branches in the dense canopy below. To compensate for this, redwoods grow treetop needles with tight spikes that conserve moisture, due to little evaporative surface. The lower branches, on the other hand, produce flat needles in order to catch additional light through the thick canopy of branches.

These trees have shallow root systems that extend over one hundred feet from the base, intertwining with the roots of other redwoods. This increases their stability during strong winds and floods.

Redwoods are naturally resistant to insects, fungi, and fire because they are high in tannin and do not produce resin or pitch. Their thick, reddish, pithy bark also provides protection and insulation for the tree. Even a downed tree can survive. The blackened hollows you will see when you walk through the grove were caused by a fire in 1926, and are a testament to the trees' remarkable ability to survive.

Redwood trees flower during the wet and rainy months of December and January. They produce cones that mature the next fall. Redwood cones are about an inch long and they produce tiny seeds, about the same size as a tomato seed. While each tree can produce 100,000 seeds annually, the germination rate is very low. Most redwoods grow more successfully from sprouts that form around the base of a tree, utilizing the nutrients and root system of a mature tree. When the parent tree dies, a new generation of trees rise, creating a circle of trees that are often called fairy rings.
Companions of the Redwoods
A mixture of trees and shrubs creates a multi-layered canopy that supports the growth of each species in the grove. Diversity is crucial to the redwood forest; every plant, tree, and even fallen logs, play a crucial role. The following trees and plants are commonly found in a redwood forest and each plays its part in the ecosystem. A more comprehensive list of plants, trees and shrubs thriving in the Grove can be picked up at the park.

Douglas Fir: A prominent member of the redwood forest, this tree is second in size only to the coast redwood. It is easily differentiated from a redwood by its dark gray bark and 3/4" cones.

Big Leaf Maple: This tree thrives in moist coastal climates. Its three to five lobed leaves turn bright yellow and orange in the fall.

California Bay Laurel: The leathery dark green leaves of this tree produce a pungent odor when crushed. The Pomo Indians used parts of this tree for food and medicine.

Tan Oak: This evergreen, which is not a true oak, has smooth gray bark and glossy toothed leaves ending in sharp spines. Traditionally, the acorns were used for food and medicine. Tannic acid is derived from the bark of these trees and used to tan leather.

California Hazel: This shrub grows 3-10 feet tall and produces edible nuts. Native Indians used the stems of this shrub to make baskets.

Woodrose: This is a small shrub that produces dainty pink blossoms in the spring that are replaced by bright rose hips in the autumn.

Redwood Trillium: This flower is a member of the lily family and thrives in the cooler climate of the redwoods. A three-petaled white flower blooms in the spring.

Redwood Sorrel: This plant forms a beautiful green carpet on the shady forest floor, folding its leaves when needed to preserve moisture. In the spring it produces a delicate there-petaled violet flower.

Sword Fern: This fern is a striking plant with individual fronds that arise from a single base and can grow up to five feet long. It is typically found growing in shaded, sheltered areas.

Bracken Fern: This fern grows anywhere from dry open areas to moist shaded spots. It has a main stem can grow 1-4 feet with lateral branches. Native Americans used the roots to make baskets.
Accessible Features
Picnic Area
Two generally accessible picnic sites are located near the Pool Ridge Trail trailhead. They include accessible tables on firm pads, and usable grills but assistance may be needed with water access. Restrooms nearby are generally accessible. Stalls permit front transfers only. Parking Two designated accessible spaces are a bit narrow but usable. Routes of travel from parking area to accessible sites are paved and usable but some persons may need assistance with slopes.

Trails
Discovery Trail was designed some time ago with features for individuals with visual impairments. It may be usable for those who can avoid some of its occasional unstable surfaces. Parking and usable restroom are at the Redwoods area located nearby.

Exhibits/Programs
Visitor Center. Visitors using wheelchairs may require assistance with ramp and path slopes. Otherwise, the center is generally accessible.
Park News Alert
Effective September 6, 2011

Due to service reductions at Austin Creek SRA, the following facilities are closed:

Bull Frog Pond Campground
Tom King/Mannings Flat I and II Backcountry Campsites
Parking above county road gate

Service reductions are subject to change. Please call 707-865-2391 for further information.
Getting There & Fees
The reserve is located three miles north of Guerneville on Armstrong Woods Road. From Highway 101- coming North or South- take the River Road exit (in Santa Rosa). Go west on River Road until you reach Guerneville. At the second stop light make a right hand turn onto Armstrong Woods Road. This road will end in the park.

Day-Use Fees are as follows:
$8 per vehicle
$7 per vehicle for seniors
Free to pedestrians and bicyclists
Bus fee for 10-24 passengers is $50

The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park.

Trails

Summary
Difficulty
Distance
Easy
1.5 mi/
2.4 km
East Ridge Trail Loop
Armstrong Grove State Preserve
Moderate
2.5 mi/
4.0 km
Guides
Pioneer Trail and Fife Creek Area Loop of Armstrong Grove
Pioneer Trail and Fife Creek Area Loop of Armstrong Grove
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, California, United States
 
Easy: 1.5 miles, 1 hour or less
Armstrong Grove State Preserve
East Ridge Trail Loop
East Ridge Trail Loop
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, California, United States
Moderate: 2.5 miles, 1-3 hours
Armstrong Grove State Preserve
Community Trips
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Trail walk with Rue and Scot
by ToranMacLeod on Sep 08, 2009
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Reviews
sdosremedios
I highly recommend this park, although this trail is a disappointment because there is a lot of vertical change, but nothing to see because of the dense foliage on both sides of the trail. Your best bet is to stick to the main redwood grove along the bottom of the valley.
Visited on Mar 11, 2010

by sdosremedios on Sep 26, 2011

Who's Been There


Craig_H is the Guru of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

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