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. 

Read More

Tags

Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

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.

Stay Nearby

Guerneville, California

Villa Eileen: Private Gem On The Russian River

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Villa Eileen is a 3BR/2BA hideaway perched on the Russian River, complete w...

From $291/night

Guerneville, California

Wine Country Retreat W/ Hot Tub, Deck & Fireplace

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Nestled in the town of Guerneville, this 3BR/2BA home is the perfect place ...

From $202/night

Guerneville, California

AutoCamp Russian River

Our Russian River property includes fully appointed Airstream campers, luxurious canvas tents, and a handcrafted Shelton Hut, all with plush, modern interiors. Year-round activities include biking,...

From $149/night

Monte Rio, California

Relax Amongst Redwoods Modern Treehouse Retreat

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Surrounded by lush forest, enjoy a carefree getaway at this heavenly Russia...

From $366/night

Nearby Adventures

  • Visit Parson Jones and Colonial Armstrong Redwood Trees

    The Parson Jones Tree is the tallest tree in the reserve, measuring more than 310 feet (94 m) in height. This is longer than the length of a football field!  Named after a lumberman who chose to preserve this portion of the park in the 1870s, the ...

  • Hike the Armstrong Redwoods East Ridge - Pool Ridge Loop

    This park most resembles Muir Woods, and if you're looking to get out of the tourist trap, head to Armstrong Redwoods and make a day of it. This 3-mile hike takes off from the sign pointing to East Ridge Trail. As you begin a slight climb up the t...

    3.4 miles 1020 ft gain

  • Canoe the Russian River via Forestville

    Starting at Burke's Canoe in Forestville, CA this is a 10-mile self-guided canoe trip down the Russian River.  You can rent your canoe from Burke's and launch from their beach.  Burke's will also pick you up 10 miles down-river and shuttle you bac...

  • Hike the Kortum Trail

    The Kortum Trail in the Sonoma Coast State Park connects Goat Rock with Wrights Beach, winding along the top of the sea cliffs and affording incredible views of the California Coast and its numerous sea rocks and arches.  To get there take the Pac...

    8.9 miles 930 ft gain