Promoting education, preservation & restoration of the natural & cultural resources of Russian River area State Parks
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (SNR) preserves 805 acres of majestic Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Coast Redwoods are classified as temperate rainforests and they need wet and mild climates to survive. Armstrong Redwoods is a natural sanctuary, cherished for its remarkable features and revered by those seeking quiet reflection. It is a living monument to the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. The redwood ecosystem is very fragile. Every effort is being made to preserve and protect the Coastal Redwoods in the Reserve, 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 lines.
Video - produced by the Community Media Center in Santa Rosa
During the 1870's this area was set aside as a natural park and botanical garden by Colonel James B. Armstrong, a lumberman and early conservationist. After his death in 1900, Armstrong's daughter Lizzie, renowned botanist Luther Burbank and the prominent Le Baron family organized a grass roots campaign to draw public attention to the need to preserve this remnant of the once mighty redwood forest. Their efforts were successful; in 1918 the County of Sonoma purchased the property for $80,000 and operated the grove until 1934. In 1936, the grove was opened to the public as Armstrong Redwoods State Park. The park’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. In 2008, the park designation was changed to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.
Armstrong Redwoods SNR illustrates the remarkable coastal microclimates of Northern California. Winter temperatures are moderate and rain brings life to the many plants and ferns that carpet the forest floor. 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. In spring, wildflowers are prolific and temperatures are mild and the fog is less frequent. Summer rolls in and with it morning fog that blankets the grove and cool the air. Afternoon temperatures warm the forest floor and in the upper hills of Austin Creek temperatures can climb to over 100 degrees.
Did You Know?
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 2000 years and tower above 350 feet.
Features of the Grove
The Tallest Tree
Located .1 mile from the park entrance, 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.
The Oldest Tree
A half-mile walk from the park entrance, the Colonel Armstrong Tree is the oldest tree in the grove, estimated to be over 1400 years old.
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 a tree hugging platform.
Armstrong Nature Trail
This self-guided nature trail is an easy stroll through the Grove and is also wheelchair accessible. Self-guided plaques along the trail highlight natural features.
The Forest Theater
This natural outdoor amphitheater is located in the heart of redwood grove. It seats over 400 people and is the home of Stewards' Old Grove Festival each September.
The reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and a variety of picnic facilities. There are 9.2 miles of hiking trails in the reserve. 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 park features are a short easy stroll along level trails that are disability accessible. Dogs are not allowed on the trail, only the road.
Visitor Center (Nature Store): The Visitor Center is located in the front parking lot of the park. Staffed by knowledgeable docents, it is open daily from 11am-3pm. The center includes interpretive displays about the natural and cultural history of the park as well as a well-designed diorama. Visitors will find high quality educational sales items and apparel. Cold water is available for a donation.
Picnic Areas: Armstrong Redwoods SNR is a wonderful place to get away from traffic and enjoy the quiet and serenity of the redwood forest. During the spring months, dozens of school groups come for tours and to picnic. Many locals and visitors flock to Armstrong Redwoods SNR's picnic areas to escape the hot summer afternoons, particularly on weekends. The busiest day of the year for picnics is Mother’s Day in May, when picnic areas often reach capacity.
There are two picnic areas in the redwood grove. You can drive into the grove and park adjacent to the picnic areas for a small day use fee. The Group Picnic Area is 3/4 of a mile from the park entrance. Nearby Fife Creek sings with water during the wet winter months, slows to trickle during late spring and may often be dry during the summer. There is a lovely seasonal waterfall within an easy hike. Facilities include: 9 large picnic tables, 1 large BBQ pit, 3 standard size picnic grills and nearby restrooms. There is no electrical service in the picnic area and amplified music is prohibited. The Group Picnic Area is available on a reservation basis. Group size is strictly limited to a maximum of 150 people. For current fees and more information, to reserve the Group Picnic Area or to plan a special event like a wedding, please contact: Liz Beale at the State Park District office at 707-865-2394 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Nearby (but not including the group area) are 70 picnic tables available on a first-come first-served basis.
Although no camping is available in Armstrong Redwoods SNR, there is a campground at Austin Creek SRA, which is adjacent to the park. Austin Creek SRA is accessed through the same entrance as Armstrong Redwoods SNR.
State Parks Volunteer docent guides are available to lead tours of Armstrong Redwoods SNR. For school group reservations, please to review procedures use our School Group Online Reservation Form. Other groups by appointment, may make a reservation using our Online Reservation Form. For more information please call Stewards at 707-869-9177.
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Armstrong Redwoods SNR or Austin Creek SRA; although dog walking is popular on the paved road (please clean up after your pet). Bicycles are allowed on service roads only. Horses are not allowed on the Pioneer or Discovery Trails, but are permitted on the East Austin Creek and Pool Ridge Trails (please clean up after your horse). Please respect all private property and no trespassing signs when hiking, stay on designated trails and do not cross low-level fencing. Layered clothing and plenty of water are recommended.
Recommended Walks and Hikes: Armstrong Redwoods SNR
Easy 1 Mile: Take the Pioneer Trail from the park entrance to the Armstrong Tree and Forest Theater, returning via the same route.
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.
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.
Recommended Hikes: Armstrong Redwoods into Austin Creek SRA
The following more strenuous hikes begin in Armstrong Redwoods and go up 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.
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.
Horseback Riding in Armstrong Redwoods SNR
The East Ridge and the Pool Ridge Trails are open to equestrians; note there are some seasonal closures due to poor trail conditions in some winter months. Trailers can be parked in the front parking lot or in the east parking lot of the picnic area. Trailers are not allowed on the road as it continues into Austin Creek Recreation Area due to the narrow and windy road.
Horse rentals are available though a private company that is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods. For information contact the Armstrong Woods Pack Station at 707-887-2939 or visit www.RedwoodHorses.com.
Fife Creek Watershed Restoration
The Fife Creek watershed consists of a basin approximately 6.7 square miles in size. Originating at an elevation of approximately 1,940' at the south slope of McCray Mountain in Austin Creek SRA, Fife Creek flows to its confluence with the Russian River through Armstrong Redwoods SNR into the town of Guerneville (126' elevation).
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods has been assisting State Parks in restoring the Fife Creek Watershed since the early 2000s. This project involves the removal of check dams that were installed in the creek during the 1960s.