Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a great place to witness the beautiful California coastal redwoods on a day trip from San Francisco. This 805-acre park is home to ancient coast redwoods, the tallest living things on the planet! Some of the redwood trees here are over 300 ft tall and 1,400 years old! You can easily see the remarkable trees on an easy loop around the forest floor. But if you want a bit more of a challenge, some Armstrong Redwoods hikes in the park combine a leisurely walk through the valley floor with a significant incline above the tree tops and back. No matter what type of hike or experience you’re looking for, Armstrong Redwoods State Park is a great place to escape the bustle of daily life and see these amazing trees!
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Where is Armstrong Redwoods State Park Located?
Armstrong Redwoods State Park is located in Sonoma County near the town of Guerneville. It is about a 1.5-hour drive from San Francisco making it an excellent day trip from the city.
Where to Park When Visiting
There are two parking lots available for visiting the park. The main parking lot is next to the visitor center and there is a secondary lot near the picnic area further into the park. The vehicle fee to park in either of these lots is $10. The fee must be paid whether or not the entrance is staffed. You’ll find self-service kiosks if there is no park attendant. The visitor center parking lot does tend to fill up, so get there early if you want to park there.
Alternatively, you can park on the side of Armstrong Woods Rd., if there is space available for free. Please do not park on the road or block any driveways. It is a short walk to the park entrance from the road.
What to Wear When Hiking in Armstrong Redwoods
Throughout the year, the weather in Armstrong Redwoods is fairly mild. The winter will bring the coldest temperatures and rainy weather which brings the forest floor to life with greenery! The summer is warmer, but fog may roll in from the coast. No matter what time of year you plan to visit, remember that the forest floor where the majority of walking trails are tends to be about 10o cooler than what your weather app says.
That being said, wearing layers will ensure that you’re comfortable for the majority of your walk. A puffer jacket is a great idea for cool mornings. You may even want gloves and a warm hat. If you’re considering a more strenuous hike, wear a long or short sleeve shirt underneath so you can cool off as you increase your activity.
On my most recent visit, I wore thick leggings, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a light rain coat with my waterproof keen hiking boots and Darn Tough hiking socks (the best things ever). It was chilly on the forest floor, but as I climbed up the Pool Ridge Trail it warmed up and I was able to take some layers off to stay comfortable.
Also, make sure that you bring your short hike essentials like water and your pre-downloaded trail map.
The Best Armstrong Redwoods Hikes
What I love most about Armstrong Redwoods is that there are easy self-guided nature trails that will allow you to see two of the famous trees the park is known for Colonel Armstrong Tree and Parson Jones Tree. Most of the trails start from the main parking area as well, so they’re easy to access! From there, you can add on more challenging hikes if you choose.
Side note: at the time of my visit, some of the trails were closed due to fire restoration. But it was all well marked, so you shouldn’t have a problem.
Another reminder, dogs are not permitted on the trails.
Pioneer Nature Trail
The Pioneer Nature Trail is the best way to enjoy the old-growth groves and other natural features of the park. It’s an easy hike clocking in as a 1.5-mile loop through the tall trees. Along the way, you’ll pass the oldest tree in the park, Parson Jones! The trail follows Fife Creek so you’ll hear the flowing water of the creek while walking under the ancient trees. It’s truly magical.
There are also placards providing more information about the history of the park,
At the end of the trail, you’ll reach the picnic area where two other trails join: East Ridge Loop and Pool Ridge Loop. There are also restrooms available here.
The Discovery Trail offshoots from the Pioneer Nature Trail just after you cross the road. This short trail will bring you to the tallest tree in the park: Colonel Armstrong. The path here is flat and ADA-accessible.
The Armstrong Trail is a short trail that connects the Pioneer Trail and the Discovery Trail. This portion of the trail was closed during my visit.
Armstrong Redwoods Grove Loop
To see it all, walk the Pioneer Nature Trail to the Armstrong Trail (when it’s open) and then loop back via the Discovery Trail. This would create an approximately 1.2-mile loop through the park. It’s such a lovely path to walk since it’s flat and shaded by towering trees.
Pool Ridge Trail
The start of the Pool Ridge Trail is either from the picnic area at the end of the Pioneer Nature Trail or the end of the Discovery Trail near the Redwood Forest Theater. This was the trail I decided to add on as it was partially open. I started from the picnic area and endured a very steep climb up switchbacks. Once I reached the top (1,200 ft elevation gain) there was a bench to recover on! This is where a portion of the trail is closed toward Austin Creek, but you can instead loop back to the Discovery Trail.
I read after that if I’d reversed my route, starting from the Discovery Trail, and climbing up and around to the Pioneer Trail that the incline is more manageable. Honestly, I think either way is a challenge!
It was a nice way to escape the growing crowds and enjoy a different portion of the park.
The loop I did: Pioneer Nature Trail – Pool Ridge – Discovery Trail – Pioneer Nature Trail came about to be about 5 miles.
East Ridge Trail
I haven’t personally experienced this trial yet, but it’s another option in the park! It is also partially closed at the Waterfall Trail. The start of the trail is near the visitor center bathrooms of the front parking lot. It then connects with the Pioneer Trail at the Picnic Area.
Things to Do Nearby in Sonoma County
Once you’re done exploring this gorgeous California State Park, don’t rush home! There are so many great things to do in the county of Sonoma! I recommend exploring downtown Sebastopol or going wine tasting in Healdsburg! In the summer months, head to Johnson’s Beach to play in the Russian River.
If you want to see more California Redwoods in the Bay Area, take a day trip to Muir Woods!
Where to Stay Nearby
Do you want to extend your morning in the Redwoods with a weekend in this beautiful part of California? Here are a few great places to stay nearby.
AutoCamp Russian River: Go glamping in the gorgeous airstreams at AutoCamp on the Russian River. Located in Guerneville, you’re just minutes away from the redwoods!
WildHaven Sonoma: Another glamping option is in Healdsburg. I stayed in one of their canvas tents recently and loved it. The campground is lovely and has access to the Russian River.
Austin Creek State Recreation Area: While there is no camping in Armstrong Redwoods, it is available in Austin Creek. Although at the time of this blog post, it’s closed for restoration purposes.
Highlands Resort: A combination of glamping tents and small cabins, this resort is nestled in the forest, but only minutes from the restaurants in Guerneville.
For more places to stay in Sonoma County, check out this page.