Firefighters surrounded the Colonel Armstrong in 2020, successfully preventing it from succumbing to a wildfire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Beyond being surrounded by beauty a bonus of hiking in redwoods on a hot day is that you will undoubtedly be cool.

This is because “coast redwoods are classified as temperate rain forests and they need wet and mild climates to survive,” according to California State Parks.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Sonoma County gets about 55 inches of rain a year and seems to create its own fog on some days.

Armstrong Redwoods has trails for all levels of hikers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

More than 20 miles of designated trails fill the 805-acre reserve in Guerneville. Unfortunately, it is easy to see the damage created by the 2020 LNU Lightning Complex fire. Armstrong was closed for more than a year to deal with the aftermath. Lightning caused this fire, which burned 363,220 acres.

Even so, this has always been one of my happy places. I loved hiking in Armstrong when I lived in Sonoma County. Visiting in May was the first time in years. It definitely did not disappoint. In fact, it had been so long it was like it was a brand new experience.

We played a bit of tourist by going on the Nature Trail which led us by multiple signs explaining various aspects of this forest. What we thought was clover turned out to be redwood sorrel. Good thing not much time was spent looking for a four-leaf clover.

Various species of fern were visible; always a sign of there being plenty of water. Hazelnuts, maples and Douglas fir were some of the species of trees we encountered beyond the redwoods.

One of the most magnificent trees calling this park home is Colonel Armstrong. It is more than 1,400-years-old, is 308-feet-tall, and has a diameter of 14.6 feet.

Burn scars from the 2020 fire are evident among some of the trees. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Col. James Armstrong bought the acreage that now includes this swath of state land in 1874. He saw the damage logging could do and decided to preserve the land. Armstrong Woods became a county park in 1916 and part of State Parks in 1934.

The tallest tree in Armstrong goes up 310 feet.

“The ancient coast redwood is the tallest living thing on our planet. These remarkable trees live to be 500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stand from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2,000 years and tower above 350 feet,” State Parks says.


  • Parking is $10.
  • Dogs limited to paved areas; as in no hiking trails.
  • Adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area remains closed because of fire damage.
  • All amenities within Armstrong Redwoods are open except East Ridge Trail and Pool Ridge Trail, which connect to Austin Creek SRA.

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