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Pool Ridge Trail / Discovery Trail / Pioneer Nature Trail / East Ridge Trail / Gilliam Creek Trail

Trip Log:

  • 09:45am - Start out from Pool Ridge Trailhead
  • 10:19am - Reach the junction with Loop Trail but somehow walked into private property by mistake (oops)
  • 10:34am - Back to the Pool Ridge Trailhead
  • 11:16am - Reach Armstrong Redwood Grove and break
  • 11:40am - Move on to Discovery Trail and Pioneer Nature Trail
  • 11:52am - Reach Visitor Center and have a look around the gift shop
  • 12:03pm - Start the East Ridge Trailhead
  • 12:24pm - Break (Panda bothered to take out from his backpack the gas, pan and cup to boil water and make a hot coffee!)
  • 12:51pm - Move on
  • 01:53pm - Finish East Ridge Trail and start the Gilliam Creek Trail
  • 02:49pm - Hit Schoolhouse creek
  • 03:28pm - Hit East Austin Creek Fire Road
  • 04:02pm - Start assent to Vista point
  • 04:10pm - Find a nice spot to watch the sunset and call it a day

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve was never on our radar but we we happened to spend Thanksgiving in Sacramento and this CA state park is only about 3 hours west. Compared to other redwood parks that we’ve visited, Armstrong Redwoods Grove was quite small. The whole area makes for an easy getaway from the nearby urban centers (Sacramento or San Francisco.) It has several trails that can be knocked out in one day. It provides contrasting landscapes and is abound with wildlife including rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Fortunately, we didn’t run into the latter. It was a small wonder that the campground and the redwood grove turned out to be extremely busy during the holiday. The ranger informed us, “Black Friday is our busiest day of the year.” Signage at the trailheads warns of extreme temperatures in the summer.

For this hike, we first combined Pool Ridge Trail with East Ridge Trail as a 5.6 mile loop. Then we descended part of Gilliam Creek Trail and looped back to the vista point above the campground adding approximately 3.6 miles.

Just a few paces after Pool Ridge Trailhead, an idyllic misty mountain scene quickly unfolded in front of us. Didn’t expect this!

The way down to the redwood grove is an effortless descent, which means an equal amount of ascending when completing the loop, not that easy …

Colorful fallen leaves

The first giant redwood foreboded the upcoming redwood grove.

Then here we were!

Taking an easy walk on the well-maintained paths in the grove, basking in this green tranquility.

After looping back to where we started through East Ridge Trail, it was still early afternoon. We then took Gilliam Creek Trail which goes through some dry open sections.

Just when we were enchanted by this contracting landscape…

All of a sudden, we saw a rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail rattling his tail trying to scare us away! We could only take this vague photo of him because we didn’t want to risk a snakebite and stayed far back. He made it clear that he wouldn’t move out of our way so after a while we had to go off the trails and through the bushes to get around him.

Once getting to Schoolhouse Creek, the scenery quickly switches into a damp, moss-covered forest as if from another planet (maybe Endor?). We were once again surprised by the capricious change of landscape.

After this sign, we said goodbye to the magic forest along the creek with its abundant salamanders. Now it was time to go back up the road.

Nature-sculpted dancing trees along the trails:

For more information, see: Walks & Hikes in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and Austin Creek State Recreation Area