When you’re surrounded by the towering ancient coast redwoods, the tallest living things on our planet, it’s easy to feel both humbled and enchanted. Welcome to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Northern California’s very own cathedral of nature. These majestic beings, some over 2,000 years old, tell ancient tales of resilience and strength packed in a cathedral of beauty.
The Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, located in Sonoma County near Guerneville, is a living reminder of the primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. The grove offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a place for quiet reflection and, of course, some fantastic hiking opportunities.
Getting into the park is straightforward. It charges $10 per vehicle to enter, with a slightly reduced fee for vehicles with a passenger aged 62 or older. Alternatively, you can park in the main parking lot at the entrance and walk in for free. Either way, you’ll find yourself stepping into a world that feels somewhat separate from the one you left behind.
The Armstrong Redwoods SNR and Austin Creek SRA offer plenty of walks and hikes that cater to every level of fitness and interest. For beginners or those looking for a leisurely stroll, the Pioneer Nature Trail is a great place to start. This trail is 1.5 miles long, round trip, and is mostly flat and level. All of the park’s main features can be found along this route, and it’s also ADA accessible, making it a great option for everyone.
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, there are several loop trails that involve more climbing and offer a different perspective on the park. The 2.2-mile loop with a 400-foot climb along the East Ridge Trail offers a moderate hike shaded by Firs, Oaks, and Madrones. The 2.3-mile loop takes you up the Pool Ridge Trail with a steady 500-foot climb and lots of switchbacks. For the more adventurous hikers, the 5.6-mile loop with a 1,100-foot climb along the East Ridge Trail is a rewarding challenge.
If you’re planning to spend the whole day hiking, consider the 9-mile loop, which takes you from the East Ridge Trail to Bullfrog Pond and back along the Pool Ridge Trail. And for those wanting to venture into the backcountry, there are options for 5-mile and 10-mile loops with significant elevation changes. Backcountry camping is also available at various points along the trails, including Tom King Camp, Mannings Flat Camp, and Gilliam Creek Camp.
While you’re here, remember to respect the park and its inhabitants. The redwood ecosystem is fragile, and we must do our part to preserve and protect it. Stay on the designated trails, do not disturb or remove any natural features, and keep dogs leashed and on paved areas only.
The Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve offers more than just a hike; it’s an opportunity to connect with an ancient world that has withstood the test of time. As you walk among these giants, take a moment to breathe in the forest air, listen to the whisper of the leaves, and feel the timeless energy of the redwoods. It’s an experience you won’t forget.