Thursday, March 28, 2024

Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve. Guerneville, CA


No trip to northern California is truly complete without seeing the magnificent redwoods in that part of the state. If you are visiting the Sonoma area, that is best done with a trip to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, in Guerneville. Guerneville, California, is an old logging town, that now survives supporting tourism along the Russian River.


The entrance to the park is a 23 mile drive from Santa Rosa. The prettiest route is along River Road, which follows the Russian River. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the area. On this route you will also pass some of the Russian River Valley’s many vineyards.


In the early 1870’s, American settlers in the area were harvesting the coastal redwoods, both for the wood, and to create farmland in the area. Colonel James Armstrong moved his family to this area from Ohio in 1874, investing in the Guerneville lumber industry, along with real estate in Santa Rosa. In 1878 Armstrong gifted 440 acres of the redwood forest to his daughter Kate, who wanted to turn it into a park. Today, this gift represents about half of the area that makes up the state park.


Inside the park, the paths are well developed, In fact, walking off of the main trails is not allowed. Most of them are relatively flat, and ADA accessible. One easy walk takes you from the park entrance to the Armstrong Tree, and then on to the picnic area, a distance of about one mile, with a gain in elevation of only 50 feet.


The path through the woods is lovely, with giant redwoods all around. The first significant tree you reach, about 200 meters in, is the Parson James Tree. At 310 feet tall, it is the tallest in the park. 


Further along is the Colonel Armstrong Tree, the oldest in the park, at over 1400 years old. 


Walking through the redwood forest is a singular experience. One advantage of the Armstrong Reserve, over the Muir Woods say, is that it draws much smaller crowds. This was especially true on a Friday morning in early November. I pretty much had the place to myself, encountering only 2 families of deer along my hike. The early morning mist filled the trees until nearly 10 o’clock, when the sun finally made it over the mountain ridge, and into the valley below. I had an amazing experience, feeling as if I had seen the grove as it has been for hundreds of years.


1 comment:

  1. I can get the sense of majesty even though I know that the camera could not possibly capture the enormity of these trees. One day I'll see them up close. Til then, thank you for sharing.