8 AM to 1 hour past official sunset.
Austin Creek State Recreation Area
Austin Creek State Recreation Area is currently operated by Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. For more information go to the link on the right or contact www.stewardscr.org. For reservations go to http://www.hipcamp.com
Austin Creek State Recreation Area is approximately 2.5 to 3 miles above Armstrong Redwoods SNR. Austin Creek SRA is accessed through the same entrance as Armstrong Redwoods SNR. With open woodlands, rolling hills, and meadows, its topography offers a strong contrast to the dense, primeval redwood forest below. 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 showcase an almost panoramic view. A paradise for the hiker and equestrian, Austin Creek rewards the explorer with twenty miles of trails and panoramic views. Austin Creek also beholds backcountry camping and Bullfrog Pond Campground which is accessible by vehicle (no trailers). The park's rugged topography, with elevations ranging from 150-1500 feet, offers a sense of isolation from the accustomed sights and sounds of civilization.
Be advised that vehicle access to Austin Creek and the campground is by way of a steep, narrow one lane, winding, 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. Please remember to honk around blind turns and remember that vehicles traveling uphill have the right of way.
This rugged area is home to a rich diversity of native plants and animals. 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. When full, 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.
A historic feature of Austin Creek SRA is 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. Formerly a student at Germany's famous Bauhaus school of design, Wildenhain enjoyed and was inspired by the peace and natural beauty of this area. For more information please visit www.pondfarm.org
Summer temperatures in the morning can still be cool although afternoon temperatures often exceed 100 degrees. In the winter it will occasionally drop below freezing and the 50+ inches of annual rainfall generally includes an occasional snow flurry. Always carry plenty of water, wear layered clothing, have a map, carry a flashlight and have a fully charged cell phone.
Facilities - Activities
Bullfrog Pond Campground offers Twenty-four family campsites . None of these campsites accommodate vehicles over 20 feet in length. We do not offer hike and bike sites (reduced fees). Some campsites are available for reservation through HipCamp. Other campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis. The campground is subject to seasonal closure. Tables, fire rings, flush toilets and potable water are provided, but no showers are available. Reserve a campsite online by visiting www.hipcamp.com If you would like a first-come first-served campsite you will need to register with staff at the Armstrong kiosk. If no one is available at the kiosk, you can self-register at the entrance to Bullfrog Pond. Official check-in time is 2 o'clock pm. Pay your camping fees prior to occupying a campsite. We do not offer group camping. Please note that the campground is likely to go into a fire ban in the summer and autumn season. We will keep you up to date.
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. There is a stream in the area, but this water supply must be purified before drinking. Use of a micro filter is recommended. The three backcountry sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A permit is REQUIRED to camp in the primitive backcountry campsites. You may register, in person, for your backcountry permit at the Armstrong kiosk. Official check-In time is 2 o'clock pm. We no longer allow self-registration for the backcountry campsites.
Camp fires are prohibited during periods of extreme fire danger. During fire bans, propane camp stoves can still be used for cooking in all but the most critical periods of fire danger when camping is not permitted at all.
Dogs are permitted on paved roads ONLY. Dogs are not allowed on dirt fire roads or trails. Dogs must remain leashed at all times.
Bicycles are allowed on paved roads and fire roads. Bicycles are not allowed on any trails.
ALL TRAILS CURRENTLY OPEN TO PACK ANIMALS. Equestrian use of trails is subject to seasonal closure based on trail conditions. Trails are usually open in the drier months, but to be sure, you may want to call the park before your visit to confirm the status of the trails. All horse trailers must remain down in the parking lots of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.
Austin Creek Fire Road:
This is an unpaved fire 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 Fire Road and returning via Gilliam Creek Trail - approximately 9 miles round trip. Please note that this fire road has little canopy cover.
Gilliam Creek Trail:
This narrow, steep trail parallels Gilliam Creek as it winds through shaded oak woodlands. After close to 4 miles it meets the Austin Creek Fire Road 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.
Pool Ridge Trail:
On this trail you will 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. The trail itself is 4.2 miles one way and 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.
East Ridge Trail:
This trail curves through the diverse and varied forests of Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek as it spans the 4 miles and 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.
Effective: 1 June 2014
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a cooperating association that works in partnership with California State Parks, has reopened Austin Creek State SRA's Bullfrog Pond campground by way of an operating agreement with State Parks.
Bullfrog Pond Campground offers camping by reservation and on a first come, first served basis. View http://www.hipcamp.com for Bullfrog Pond Camping information.
The three primitive backcountry campsites (Tom King and Mannings Flat 1 & 2) are currently OPEN. You must apply for a backcountry permit at the kiosk (in person ONLY), no advanced reservations or self-registration is permitted for these sites. Be advised we may put a camping ban in place when backcountry roads become inaccessible to emergency vehicles and/or heavy rainfall creates treacherous creek crossings. If in doubt, call the park for more information.
Note: Often in the summertime the park is put into a fire ban. Please call ahead if you are unsure about the current conditions or check www.stewardscr.org
Available Activities and Facilities at Austin Creek State Recreation Area
Exhibits and Programs