Austin Creek State Recreation Area is adjacent to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural 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 showcase an almost panoramic view. 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, brodiaes, 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
Currently Twenty-two 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.
Backcountry 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 Natural 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.
Alltrails are closed to equestrian use. However, the trails do open up for equestrian use when trail conditions permit. You will need to call the park before your visit to confirm the status of our trails. All horse trailers must remain down in the parking lots of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. 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 or www.RedwoodHorses.com
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 4.2 miles one way and can be used to access Armstrong Redwoods State Natural 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.