When we moved to California a couple of months ago, I figured that the famous redwood trees could only be found near the northern border of the state. Imagine my excitement when I discovered Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve just 30 minutes west of our place in Santa Rosa.
To top it off, parking was FREE, the weather was ideal and the hike was simple. Dare I say it was a Hike For People Who Get Bored Easily.
Yeah, this is a great location to see redwoods, but are they as spectacular as they are up north?
The tallest tree that you will see at Armstrong Redwoods SNR is The Parson Jones tree at 310 feet in height. It’s just a 0.1 mile walk from the park entrance. The tallest tree in California is the Hyperion in Redwood National Park measuring at 379.1 feet.
The oldest tree at Armstrong Redwoods SNR is the Colonel Armstrong Tree, 1,400 years old. This doesn’t come close to the oldest tree in California, estimated at 3,500 years old, and located in Giant Sequoia National Monument. But hey, what difference does a couple thousand years make, really?
We were looking for a short hike before an afternoon on the coast, and this fit our itinerary perfectly. If you scroll about half way down this page, you’ll see the full list of hikes. We went on the Pioneer Nature Trail hike (1.7 miles) and it was easy. They have several easy to moderate hikes and then a couple strenuous hikes, up to 9 miles with a 1500’ climb in elevation.
For being such a stunning park, it was incredibly quiet. We were often the only ones in sight and only saw a couple dozen people the entire time. Maybe it was just a unique Sunday.
The drive was simple and on level, paved roads the entire way. If you’re coming from San Francisco, you’ll head straight north on US-101 and take River Rd to Armstrong Woods Rd.
We were able to easily grab free parking outside of the main entrance (as described on their website here). We stopped at the restrooms before heading in and spotted our trail with ease. It feels a little wrong visiting such a beautiful park without paying, donations are accepted at the Visitor Center.
If your time in California is limited and you can’t make it from the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters (sorry – I had to), Armstrong Redwoods SNR is an excellent alternative. You’ll see plenty of humongous trees and many, “WOW” moments. Oh, and if you have kids, they’ll really love this place. There’s tons of fallen over trees that are perfect for climbing.
Thanks for reading,