Austin Creek State Recreation Area is an awesome wilderness next to Armstrong Redwoods. The park features extremely limited facilities, including a camping area at Bullfrog Pond and a few picnic tables. Access to the park is limited to a narrow and winding mountain road that first passes through Armstrong Redwoods. The park’s terrain includes a lovely variety of oak woodland, coniferous forest of mainly Douglas fir, pockets of redwoods, and grassy meadows. The East Fork of Austin Creek and tributary Gilliam Creek are the primary geographical features that cuts across the park. The best single track in the park is the Gilliam Creek Trail which is a real adventure. The trail starts on Pool Ridge at the Gilliam Trailhead and traverse the hillside before plunging down to Schoolhouse Creek on a technical and weathered trail. Once in the canyon, bay trees and lush ferns abound all the way down to Gilliam Creek and on to the East Fork of Austin Creek. There are numerous creek crossings and after winter storms, many of these crossings become wet or even impassable. The trail is also slightly overgrown with low lying poison oak encroaching in some spots. On my run through the Gilliam Creek canyon I spotted numerous newts and deer.
At the conclusion of the Gilliam Creek Trail, one must cross the East Fork of Austin Creek which was still a wet crossing for me despite the lack of winter rains the past few months. The trip back to Pool Ridge utilizes the East Austin Creek Fire Road which traverses the hillsides and provides fantastic views of the backcountry. Another crossing of the East Fork of Austin Creek is also required (likely wet). The two other single track trails worth checking out at Austin Creek are the East Ridge Trail and Pool Ridge Trail which can be run in combination to make a nice loop down Armstrong Redwoods and back up Austin Creek at the Pool Ridge or Gilliam Creek Trailheads. Both trails entail fairly steep portions. The campground at Bullfrog Pond is pleasant with redwoods and nice sites. Near the campground is a Vista Point with spectacular views of the coastal range. The grassy meadows of the upper portion of the park are also known for fantastic wildflower displays in the spring. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a local nonprofit organization, works in partnership with the Russian River sector of California State Parks to keep the campground open. Many thanks to the volunteers of this organization for a their great work. My route through Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek is here on Strava.