Gualala Point Regional Park
Location: 42401 Coast Highway 1, approximately 1 mile south of the town of Gualala, CA
Directions: 36 miles north of Jenner and one mile south of Gualala. (Mile Marker 58.50) What you need to know:
Hours: The park is open daily. Most Sonoma County Regional parks open at sunrise and close at sunset.
Parking: $5.00 per vehicle for day use. Special rates apply to buses or trucks carrying more than 9 people.
Dogs: Permitted on leash no longer than 6′ in length. Rabies certificate required.
Facilities: The day use area of the park has a Visitors Center, picnic tables (some with BBQ’s) and restrooms with flush toilets. The campground has a restroom with flush toilets, electrical outlets and coin operated showers ($1.50 for 5 minutes). There is also a dump station. Please note: there are no RV hook-ups.
Camping: Gualala Point Park offers individual campsites, walk-to sites and a hiker/bicycle site. For specific park information call (707) 785-2377.
Gualala River The 195 acre park has open meadows mixed with coastal forest. The park contains a campground, trail system, Visitors Center, coastal vistas, and sandy beaches. The park is located adjacent to the Gualala River, which offers limited seasonal fishing. Please check current regulations.
Gualala Point Park is popular with day hikers, picnickers and also offers a beautiful setting for small weddings. For information call (707) 785-2377. The campground is situated among the majestic redwood trees and is adjacent to the Gualala River. Camping and reservation information.
Visitors Center: The Visitors Center is hosted by volunteers and has outstanding displays of early California History, information regarding Native Americans, and the turn of the century logging industry. Hiking trails from the campground will take you through the 195-acre park.
For additional information, call (707) 785-2377.
Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve
Location: 17000 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, CA.
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 2000 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. To find out more about these magnificent trees click the link About Coast Redwoods to the left.
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 park features are a short easy stroll along level trails that are disability accessible.
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. For more information click on link to the left.
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 fenceline. 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.
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. A .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 1400 years old. It is named after a lumberman who chose to preserve this portion of the park in the 1870’s. 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. Guides are available at the visitor center.
The picnic area is 3/4 of a mile form the park entrance. Grills, tables, and restrooms are situated beneath the tall trees and seasonal creeks meander through in 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 $150.00- this includes a $35.00 use fee plus a non-refundable $15.00 reservation fee. A 14 day cancellation is required for a refund of the use fee. For more than 100 people 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 do now offer weddings at Armstrong. Anyone interested should also contact Liz Beale for 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!
Walks and Hikes:
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve or Austin Creek State Recreation Area. Bicycles are allowed on service roads only. Horses are not allowed on the Pioneer or Discovery trail but are permitted on East Austin Creek and Pool Ridge Trails. Please respect all private property and no trespassing signs when hiking, stay on designated trails, and do not cross low-level fencing.
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.
The following hikes begin in Armstrong Redwoods and 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.
Armstrong Nature Trail guides are only available through an appointment with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods typically for larger groups, call 707-869-9177.
The East Ridge Trail and the Pool Ridge Trail are open to equestrians, although we do experience seasonal closures due to poor trails conditions in some winter months. Trailers can be parked in our front parking lot or in the east parking lot of the picnic area. Ttrailers 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 more information contact the Armstrong Woods Pack Station at 707-887-2939 or www.RedwoodHorses.com
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.
During the 1870’s, 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 operated 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.
Salt Point State Park
Location: Salt Point is located on Highway One approximately 90 miles north of San Francisco.
Rocky promontories, panoramic views, kelp-dotted coves, and the dramatic sounds of pounding surf; open grasslands, forested hills, pristine prairies, and pygmy forests- you can experience all of these coastal wonders within the Salt Point State Park. With 20 miles of hiking trails, over six miles of rugged coastline, and an underwater park, you can enjoy a variety of picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, skin and SCUBA diving, and camping. The weather can be changeable along the rugged Northern California Coast. Even summertime can be cool as fog hugs the coastline and ocean winds chill the air. We recommend layered clothing for your visit.
Sandstone and Tafoni
Ever wonder where the streets of San Francisco came from? Sandstone from Salt Point was used in the construction of San Francisco’s streets and buildings during the mid 1800’s. If you look closely at the rocks at Gerstle Cove, you can still see eyebolts where the ships anchored while sandstone slabs were loaded onboard. Quarried rocks can still be seen scattered along the marine terrace north of Gerstle Cove. Look for the drill holes along the edges of the rocks that were used to separate the large rocks into smaller slabs.
Tafoni is the Italian word for cavern. It is a natural phenomenon that is common along the sandstone near the ocean’s edge at Gerstle Cove and Fisk Mill. Look for a honeycomb type network carved into the rocks forming pits, knobs, ribs, and ridges. For more information on the geology of Salt Point click on link to the left.
FACILITIES and ACTIVITIES
When utilizing the facilities at Salt Point State Park we ask that you remain on developed trails at all time in order to preserve the park’s unspoiled qualities and to avoid contact with ticks and poison oak. Mountain bikes must stay on paved or fire roads, however, fire roads are closed to bicycles from October 31 to April 30. Bikes are not allowed on single-track trails as they cause a great deal of damage to the trail surfaces. Dogs must be kept on leash at all times and are not permitted on the trails or on the beaches. They must be kept in a tent or vehicle at night. For additional State Park regulations please click on link to the left.
Fisk Mill Cove is a day use area that provides picnickers with paved parking, picnic tables, small upright barbeques, restrooms, and drinking water. Additionally, the bishop pines in this area provide protection from the spring and summer winds. You can take a short walk from the north lot for a dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean from Sentinel Rock’s wooden deck.
Stump Beach is another picnic area that offers one of the few sandy beaches north of Jenner. There are a few picnic tables near the parking lot and a primitive toilet with no running water. A 1/4 mile trail leads down to the beach.
South Gerstle Cove also has picnic tables, a primitive toilet, and a beautiful, exposed view of the ocean.
Hiking and Horseback Riding:
There are over 20 miles of hiking and equestrian trails to explore in Salt Point State Park. Trail maps are available at the entrance station.
The park includes one of the first underwater parks in California, Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, where marine life is completely protected. The cove affords shelter for the hand launching of small boats and divers come to the cove to explore the wonders of the undersea world.
Marine life can be experienced on land during low tide in the rocky intertidal zone through tide pool exploration. When exploring these areas remember that many of these organisms can be damaged or destroyed by even the simple act of turning over a rock and exposing the animals to the sun.
Fishing is permitted throughout the area with a valid fishing license, with the exception of Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve. The rocky coastline at Salt Point provides many excellent ocean fishing opportunities. Using bait of squid, shrimp, mussels, or smelt you can catch lingcod, cabezon, rockfish, and greenlings while fishing from the rocks. Be careful to stay back from the waves reach, since the rocks can be slippery and the ocean is rough.
All campsites, with the exception of our overflow camping, are equipped with a fire-ring, picnic table, and food locker. The campgrounds have drinking water and restrooms but no showers. A dump station is not available.
The family sites and group campground are on our reservation system from March 15 to October 31 by calling 1-800-444-PARK (7275). November 1- March 14 they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The walk-in sites, hiker/biker sites, and overflow camping are on a first-come, first-served basis year round- no reservations are available for these sites. Campgrounds consistently fill on weekends from April 1 to the end of September. Reservations are strongly recommended. For campground maps please see link to the left, but keep in mind that specific sites cannot be reserved.
Two main campgrounds are available at Salt Point State Park. Gerstle Cove campground is situated atop the coastal bluffs on the ocean side of Highway One and offers 30 family campsites. Woodside Campground, with 79 sites, is located on the east side of Highway One.
The walk-in campground is located in the Woodside Campground and offers 20 sites which are located 1/3 to 1/2 mile from the parking area. Dogs are prohibited in these sites.
Ten sites are available for campers on foot or bicycles. These sites are located behind the ranger office near Woodside Campground.
This camp is located on the ocean side of Highway One and accommodates a maximum of 40 people and ten cars. Dogs are prohibited.
A day use parking lot located below Gerstle Campground is available for self-contained vehicles only. No tent camping or open fires are allowed. No restroom facilities or drinking water are available.
Sonoma Coast Trail
Location: Sonoma County Coast.
From Blind Beach to Shell Beach is 4 miles round trip; to Wright’s Beach is 6.5 miles round trip
The names alone are intriguing: Blind Beach and Schoolhouse Beach, Arched Rock and Goat Rock, Penny Island and Bodega Head.
These colorfully named locales are some of the highlights of Sonoma Coast State Beach, thirteen miles of coastline stretching from the Russian River to Bodega Bay.
Sonoma Coast State Beach is not one beach, but many. You could easily overlook them, because most aren’t visible from Highway 1. The beaches are tucked away in rocky coves, and hidden by tall bluffs.
Sonoma Coast Trail is a pretty blufftop route that connects some of these secret beaches. During spring, wildﬂowers brighten the bluff: blue lupine, Indian paintbrush and sea ﬁg.
Sonoma Coast Trail begins on the bluffs above Blind Beach, but the walker can also begin at Goat Rock, located a half mile north of the trail-head. The rock is connected to the mainland by a causeway. During the 1920s, Goat Rock was quarried, and used to build a jetty at the mouth of the Russian River.
A mile north of the trailhead, and 0.5 mile north of Goat Rock is the mouth of the Russian River. The 110 mile-long river is one of the largest on the North Coast. At the river mouth, you can observe ospreys nesting in the treetops. The California brown pelican is one of several species of birds that breed and nest on Penny Island, located in the river mouth.
Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1, ten miles north of the town of Bodega Bay, turn west on Goat Rock Road. Signed Sonoma Coast Trail begins at a small parking lot on the left of the road. If you’d like to begin this walk at Goat Rock, continue to road’s end at a large parking area.
The hike: Sonoma Coast Trail heads south along the edge of the bluffs. Soon, you’ll step over a stile and head across a pasture. The trail climbs to a saddle on the shoulder of Peaked Hill (elevation 376 feet).
You then descend to the ﬂat blufftops, and cross a bridge over a fern-lined ravine. It’s a pastoral scene with grassy bluffs and a weathered old barn in the distance.
After crossing another ravine, the path reaches the Shell Beach parking area. A short trail descends the bluffs to Shell Beach. Another trail extends northwest, crosses the highway, and reaches redwood-shaded Pomo Canyon. Picnic tables and walk-in (environmental) campsites are located near the creek.
Sonoma Coast Trail continues south, detouring inland around a private home, then doubling back seaward. The trail plunges into Furlong Gulch, then switchbacks back up to the bluffs. You can follow the trail or the beach to Wright’s Beach Campground.
Austin Creek State Recreation Area
Note: Often in the summertime we do go into a fire ban. Please call ahead if you are unsure about the current conditions.
Austin Creek State Recreation Area is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve and is accessed through the same entrance. With open woodlands, rolling hills, and meadows, its topography offers a strong contrast to the dense, primeval redwood forest below. Here you will discover deep tree-lined ravines cooled by year round streams; grassy hillsides burnished golden by the heat of summer sun and turned emerald by plentiful winter rains; oak capped knolls that seem to float like islands on lakes of lowland fog; and rocky mountaintops that offer glimpses of the Pacific ocean. A paradise for the hiker and equestrian, Austin Creek rewards the explorer with twenty miles of trails and panoramic wilderness views, back-country camping, and Bullfrog Pond Campground- accessible by vehicle. The park’s rugged topography, with elevations ranging from 150-1500 feet in elevation, offers a sense of isolation from the accustomed sights and sounds of civilization.
Be advised that vehicle access to the park and campground is by way of a steep, narrow, winding, 2.5-mile-long, mountain road. For safety reasons, no vehicle over 20 feet in length is allowed on this road. Vehicles with trailers or other towed vehicles are also prohibited.
This wilderness area is home to a rich diversity of native animals and plants. The springtime wildflower displays include Douglas iris, Indian paint brush, buttercups, lupines, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=452, California poppies, and shooting stars. The grasslands, chaparral, conifer, oak woodland, and riparian habitats of Austin Creek SRA are home to a wild range of native animals including squirrel, deer, raccoon, fox, coyote, skunk, bobcat, and an occasional black bear or mountain lion. Introduced species that are commonly seen include feral pigs and wild turkeys. Bird life in the park includes the colorful wood duck and the rare spotted owl. Other more frequently seen birds include great blue herons, ravens, black-shouldered kites, California quail, various woodpeckers, hawks, and flycatchers. Several aquatic species live in Bullfrog pond including sunfish, black bass, and bull frogs. Trout, salmon, newts and salamanders are found in the many streams. Licensed anglers may fish Bullfrog Pond, but all streams are closed to fishing to protect important spawning habitat.
A historic feature of Austin Creek SRA is the remaining buildings of Pond Farm Pottery. This was the home, workshop, and school of the internationally renowned ceramic artist, Marguerite Wildenhain, who settled here after World War II. Formerly a student at Germany’s famous Bauhaus school of design, Wildenhain enjoyed and was inspired by the peace and natural beauty of this area.
Summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees, although mornings can still be cool. In the winter it will occasionally drop below freezing and the 50+ inches of annual rainfall generally includes an occasional snow flurry. Always carry plenty of water and wear layered clothing.
Facilities – Activities
Twenty-four family campsites are located near Bullfrog Pond. Campsites are available throughout the year on a first-come, first-served basis. Tables, fire rings, flush toilets and potable water are provided but no showers are available.
Back country primitive campsites are located at the Tom King and Manning Flat sites. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. Pit toilets are located nearby. A year-round stream is nearby, but this water supply must be purified before drinking. Use of a micro filter is recommended. The primitive sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You will need a backcountry permit to camp in our primitive backcountry campsites. You may register for all camping and pick up a backcountry permit from our kiosk at the entrance to Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. However, if the kiosk is closed, you will need to self-register for all camping at the entrance of Bullfrog Pond campground in Austin Creek. You will find self-pay envelopes, backcountry permits and self-registration instructions at the registration site.
Ground fires are prohibited during periods of extreme fire danger, although camp stoves can still be used for cooking in all but the most critical periods of fire danger when camping is not permitted at all.
All of Austin Creek’s trails are open to horses although horse trailers are not permitted beyond the picnic area. Check with the park office for up-to-date information about trail conditions. A horse riding and pack station concession providing guided day and overnight trips is located 1/2 mile west of the Armstrong Tree in Armstrong Redwoods State park.
Horse rentals are available though a private company that is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods. For more information contact the Armstrong Woods Pack Station at 707-887-2939 website
Austin Creek Trail:
This is an unpaved service road that also serves as a trail, winding down the canyon through meadows and groves of forest as it drops from 1200′ to 300′ in elevation. After 4.7 miles, the road meets with Gilliam Creek Trail. A strenuous but spectacular day hike can be experienced by hiking down the Austin Creek Trail and returning via Gilliam Creek- approximately 9 miles round trip.
Gilliam Creek Trail:
This narrow, steep trail parallels Gilliam Creek as it winds through shaded oak woodlands. After close to 4 miles it meets the Austin Creek Trail at the confluence of East Austin and Gilliam Creeks. This trail is seasonally impassable at the lower elevations due to high winter water levels in Gilliam Creek.
Pool Ridge Trail:
On this trail you will experience the dramatic contrast between the cool redwood grove below and the open forest and rolling hills above in Austin Creek SRA. The trail only drops 500′ in elevation, however the upper portion is very steep. The trail itself is 2.5 miles one way and can be used to access Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. It can also be used as a loop in conjunction with the East Ridge Trail.
East Ridge Trail:
This trail curves through the diverse and varied forests of Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek as it spans the 4 miles and 1500′ elevation between the park entrance and Bullfrog pond campground. It can also be used as part of a loop by hiking one way on this trail and returning via the Pool Ridge Trail.