There’s something memorable about being surrounded by trees that have lived more than a thousand years. You find yourself slowing down, taking time to reflect about life. Beneath the redwood forest’s magnificent and soaring canopy you’ll feel dwarfed, silenced by the trees’ majesty, humbled by their endurance.
Here are a few parks in Sonoma County where you can create your own special redwood moments:
Meander through an ancient redwood grove
At 805 acres Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville isn’t huge, but it’s hugely awe-inspiring, with soaring redwood trees that include the 1400-year-old Colonel Armstrong and the 310-foot-tall Parson Jones. The self-guided Nature Trail is a great way for first-time visitors to learn about redwood trees, and the Discovery Trail features a unique tree-hugging platform. You can string Armstrong’s trails together to form a five-mile hike; for more of a workout, take a trail leading into adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area, which contains 20 miles of trails and also many redwood trees. Armstrong also contains a visitor center, a large outdoor amphitheater, and picnic facilities.
Hike in a redwood forest within sight of the ocean
Sonoma Coast State Park is made up of 17 stunningly beautiful miles along the Sonoma County coastline. Any hike here is bound to be memorable, and the Park’s Pomo Canyon Trail includes a redwood forest. The trail leaves from Shell Beach, at about the park’s coastal midway point, and heads east. It crosses Highway 1 and then travels upward into a redwood forest with a waterfall. It’s a moderate seven-mile round trip. Download the Sonoma Coast SP brochure, which includes a map showing the trail route.
Tower over a redwood tree
One of the world’s coastal wonders, the Pygmy Forest in Salt Point State Park—a few miles south of Gualala—is populated with stands of mature but miniature trees. These include petite redwood trees, which are normally the world’s tallest living things (other trees include the Bishop pine, Bolander pine, and Mendocino cypress).
Even though many of these trees are more than a century old, they’re only a few feet tall; their stunted growth is caused by the inhospitable combination of highly-acidic, nutrient-free soil and a hardpan layer that prevents drainage. One visit and you’ll have lifetime bragging rights to tell people that you once towered over a full-grown redwood tree.
Walk a trail leading to a 2000-year-old redwood tree
Said to be somewhere around 2,000 years old, the “Grandmother Tree” at Jack London State Historic Park definitely looks like she has been around for a while. Fourteen feet in diameter, her bark is spotted with burn spots, and she’s riddled with crevices and crannies. But as with all ancient redwood trees or any other living thing that’s hung in there longer than expected, there’s something regal, enduring and ultimately humbling about her. A nice wooden bench invites you to sit a spell and admire her longevity. The trail to the tree is easy, about four miles round-trip and with a bit of up and down. Download the trail map.
Explore redwoods along the Russian River
Beautiful, peaceful, and adjacent to the Russian River, Healdsburg’s 305-acre Riverfront Regional Park is just a few miles off Highway 101 and mere minutes from downtown Windsor.
Along with two beautiful fishing lakes where you can paddle a kayak or canoe (or do some stand-up paddling), there’s a lovely five-mile trail winding through a 15-acre grove of coast redwoods.
A picnic area within the grove provides the perfect excuse to settle in and stay a while.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodgriguez.