Hike Austin Creek State Recreation Area

9 miles 1500 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Tucker Cullen

Enter a remote and untouched wilderness area in the heart of Sonoma County. Tucked away behind the tranquil Armstrong Redwoods, Austin Creek SRA is a little-known gem. The landscape is largely untouched and you can go hours on the trail without encountering another hiker.

 The hike starts at the Gilliam Creek Trailhead, halfway up Armstrong Woods Road on the way to Bullfrog Pond. There is an $8 fee to enter the park, to be paid at the ranger kiosk as you enter Armstrong woods. 

Begin hiking by descending the Gilliam Creek Trail. The descent is long and steep in the beginning and leads you down to Schoolhouse Creek, at which point the slope becomes more gradual. Keep in mind that you will have to hike all the way back up to get to your car, so make sure to turn around if you feel like you're running out of energy. 

When you arrive at Schoolhouse Creek the most interesting part of the hike begins: around ten consecutive creek crossings. Most of the crossing require some wading. In order to avoid soaking your shoes or constantly taking them on and off, bring a pair of water shoes that are ok to hike in for a few miles. It will make the creek crossings go by much faster and be more enjoyable. Be wary of this hike after a winter storm, as some crossings may become impassible. Also, be sure to keep your eye out for salamanders as they are ubiquitous throughout the creek. 

If you'd like to make this into a short hike - about 4 miles roundtrip - turn right at the junction about two miles down the Gilliam Creek Trail. Then loop back up to your car on the East Austin Creek Fire Road. 

To do the full 9 mile loop, continue straight along Gilliam Creek. Eventually you will run into East Austin Creek and will need to wade across. It is fairly wide and there are a few decent spots for swimming if you look around a little. 

After crossing Austin Creek turn right until you reach the Fox Mountain Fire Road. To add an extension to your hike, then turn left at the next junction to climb up Fox Mountain itself. However, you are not able to reach the very top of Fox Mountain since it's on private property, but you can still find some decent views and redwood groves along the way up the unmaintained dirt road. 

After the turn off that leads up the mountain, the trail continues North to yet another creek crossing. Turn right on the Austin Creek Fire Road after the crossing. 

Follow the Austin Creek Fire Road about three and a half miles all the way back to the pavement on Armstrong Woods Road. Unlike the Gilliam Creek Trail, the fire road is mostly very exposed and can often get incredibly hot in the summer (100+ degrees). Once you reach the pavement, turn right and follow it for .6 miles back to your car. 

If you are looking to stay overnight, Bullfrog Pond has 24 developed car camping sites. Some of these sites are reservable on HipCamp (https://www.hipcamp.com/califo...). The rest are first come first serve. There are also two backcountry campsites, Tom King and Manning's Flat, which are available for backpackers. You must register at the Armstrong Kiosk for a backcountry permit to stay there. 

Mountain biking is allowed on the fire roads but not on any single track trails in the park. Pack animals are allowed on all trails when they are dry. 

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Back country hiking

For the Sonoma Area, this is about as isolated as it gets. This is very untraveled trail, so ensure you know where you are going and that you are fully prepared with proper gear food and water. During the summer season it gets very hot and the creeks will dry up for the most part, offering very little water to filter. There are a few sections where i lost sight of any trail due to blow-over or wash-out, so using a GPS map will offer a sense of safety here.

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