Austin Creek State Recreation Area (AC SRA) boasts 5,700 acres of open woodlands, rolling hills, and meadows -- a strong contrast to the dense, primeval redwood forest below in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (AR SNR). Both parks are accessed through the same entrance. 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 offer glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. A paradise for the hikers and equestrians, 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' in elevation, offers a sense of isolation from the accustomed sights and sounds of civilization.
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.
AC SRA is a lovely place to celebrate life's special events. There are a number of locations that are befitting of small to larger groups for a Wedding ceremony, a celebration of a loved one's life or just a family reunion.
Bullfrog Pond Campground hosts 23 campsites located near the charming Bullfrog Pond. Campsites are available throughout the year either on a first-come, first-served basis or by reservation. Tables, fire rings, flush toilets and potable water are provided but no showers are available. 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.
Back country 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 must purchase your backcountry permit from the Entrance Kiosk from 10-4pm daily or at the Stewards' office M-F from 8-10 am. (The Stewards office is to the right beyond the picnic area).
Ground fires are prohibited during periods of extreme fire danger, although camp stoves can still be used for cooking, except during the most critical periods of fire danger when camping is not permitted at all.
All of Austin Creek's trails are open to horses although horse trailers are not permitted beyond the picnic area. Check with Field Operations for up-to-date information about trail conditions: (707) 869-2015.
4 mi/6.4 km, One Way
East Ridge Trail curves through the diverse and varied forests of Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek as it traverses the 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.
2.5 mi/4 km, One Way
Pool Ridge Trail gives you an opportunity to 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. This trail 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.
4 mi/6.4 km, One Way
Gilliam Creek Trail is a narrow, steep trail that 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.
9 mi/14.5 km, Round Trip
Austin Creek Trail 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.
Prominent historic features of Austin Creek SRA are 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. 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 may include an occasional snow flurry. Always carry plenty of water and wear layered clothing. Note: In the summer fire bans are frequent, please call ahead if you are unsure about the current conditions.
The Fife Creek watershed consists of a basin approximately 6.7 square miles in size. Originating at an elevation of approximately 1,940' at the south slope of McCray Mountain in Austin Creek SRA, Fife Creek flows to its confluence with the Russian River through Armstrong Redwoods SNR into the town of Guerneville (126' elevation).
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods has been assisting State Parks in restoring the Fife Creek Watershed since the early 2000s. This project involves the removal of check dams that were installed in the creek during the 1960s.
Read more about the Fife Creek Watershed Restoration Project.
Stewards provides over 25 environmental education, citizen science, and stewardship programs for youth and the public every year. This important work is made possible with funding from grants, sponsors, and the generosity of the community. Consider contributing to the cause today by giving a tax deductible donation.