A primeval, expansive, life-filled, redwood forest sets the scene around Austin Creek Recreation Area in Sonoma County, California. RV visitors can bask in views of the lush hillsides, precipitous ravines, expansive meadows, and towering trees in all directions. If you are an avid hiker, equestrian, nature explorer, camper, or bird watcher then this campground should be your next destination. The truly rewarding views in the area, are awarded to the adventurers who scale the rocky mountain to a elevation of 1,500 feet. The surrounding wilderness presents a picture perfect panorama from the summit.
The nature directly around the campground is overflowing with diverse animal and plant life. If you plan your trip in springtime, you will be met with an extensive array of wildflowers. So grab your plant identification book and see how many varieties you can spot. Or find a quiet spot and admire the miniature world of life featuring buzzing insects, pollinators, and jumping crickets.
At Austin Creek Recreation Area, there is the main campground along with three back county campsites. Bullfrog Pond Campground has 23 tent sites, however it is only accessible by car or caravan, with no trailers, of a maximum length of 20 feet. If you want to camp in real seclusion with nothing but the trees around, then one of the campsites from Austin Creek Back Country is the place for you. You can only reach these campsites by hiking the trails with serious back-packing and camping equipment. Both of these campsites provide minimal amenities including food storage lockers, fire rings, outhouses, and picnic tables.
This mountain surrounded wilderness is an isolated destination, with the drive to the campground along a stunning winding road. You will see the view rise all around you when you travel out of the canyon. During heavy rainfalls, certain paths and roads can be called for safety reasons with the back country sites becoming inaccessible. All the roads to and from the Austin Creek State Recreation Area are relatively narrow and tightly winding. Therefore make sure to drive your rig or car slowly and cautiously, especially during dusk. Due to the winding nature of the roads, the closest gas station and small shop is 6.7 mile miles away but takes 30 minutes to drive.
The Bullfrog Pond Campground is nestled among the wilderness of the Austin Creek State area and is accessible by vehicle along winding roads. The campground has small campsites available for tents, cars, and set ups under 20 feet in length. No large RVs, campervans, or trailers can be accommodated. No hookups are available.
There are 23 sites, most of which can be reserved. While the campground is remote, the campsites themselves are pretty closely squeezed together. If you want the best spots with maximum privacy opt for sites 24, 21, 20, or 8.
There are minimal facilities including fire pits, toilet blocks, potable water, picnic tables, and bins. Make sure to lock up any left over food to make sure no wild animals are attracted to the campground. If you are a light sleeper, consider packing ear plugs as the bull frog symphony at night gets quite loud.
Seven sites at Bullfrog Pond Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Following a moderate hike past the general Bullfrog Pond Campground, you can reach three beautiful campsites right in real nature. There is Tom Kings, which is a wooded glen located 3.5 miles from the trail head. Mannings Flat #1 is a meadow teeming with wild flowers 4.5 miles away from the trailhead and Manning Flat #2 is a private spot surrounded by redwood treed five miles from the trailhead.
There are minimal facilities available, however, you will have access to an outhouse, picnic tables, food storage lockers, and firepits. These three campsites are otherwise completely secluded so you need to bring all your own drinking water, or water filters. You can bring up to 16 people per campsite to enjoy this wilderness experience. Make sure to pack proper hiking and camping gear, along with a way to bring all your trash back to the bins. No dogs are allowed on any of the trails unless they are active service dogs with documentation.
Whichever way you will turn your lens, you will find a snapshot worthy of putting up on your wall. Make sure to take your camera to the upper Vista point during sunset. From there you will be able to capture the stunning silhouettes of the tall trees with the red glow of the sun.
Why not try your luck with getting a good shot of the famous bullfrogs? Or catch one of the bigger mammals wandering around the forest? Head out shortly after sunrise to get the best colors and the flowers opening to full bloom.
There are plenty of hiking trails which will give you views of the canyon, wildflower specked meadows, and tunnel like walk ways through the tall red trees.
This area of the world is teeming with wildlife that any nature observer would be thrilled to see. Grab your binoculars out of the campervan and get ready for an action packed day of wildlife watching.
Birds that live in these areas include blue herons, black-shouldered kites, California quail, various woodpeckers, flycatchers, and ravens. There are also many birds of prey which live in the area, and you can see them swooping overhead and diving down into the meadows to catch their prey.
There are also many larger animals including coyotes, skunks, foxes, mountain lions, and bobcats wandering the area. This is why it is so important to pack and store away your food to not attract wild animals to your campsite. The creeks are home to an abundance of life, and if you are quiet you might see some hopping bullfrogs, sunfish, and black bass.
While the trails through the woods are not open to mountain biking, the winding roads around the Austin Creek State Recreation Area provide the perfect backdrop to road biking.
So bring your road bike in your camping trailer, and you can spend many hours peddling along the winding roads. You will be met with views of redwood trees, occasional wildlife appearing from the dense foliage, and an abundant amount of bird life flying over head.
Head out early in the morning with plenty of water to brace for the hot day ahead. Enjoy the winding mountain roads with the best views of nature. Some fire roads are also bike friendly during certain times of the year. If the day is rainy, a bike can seriously mess up the road so access during that time is prohibited.
Bullfrog Campground has a small swimming hole where you can jump in to cool off in the summertime. The creeks and streams provide a welcome cool atmosphere in the otherwise hot area. The tall redwoods in the surroundings and dense forest provide a nice backdrop to a quick dip in the water.
The creeks and streams are mostly not deep enough for proper swimming, however children will enjoy wading around to spot some wildlife. Occasionally, during particular dry months they can be low, or even empty.
Just like the namesake of the campsite, bullfrogs are found in these areas in large numbers. You can hear them croaking from your campsite and they are fun to observe with their expanding throats. However, if you are sensitive to sound, maybe bring ear plugs.
The 20 miles of remote terrain tracks also double as fantastic horse riding paths for avid equestrians. Trail riding is only permitted in acceptable conditions so you must call ahead to check whether they are open. This can depend on rain and storms. The ride will take you over rolling hills with tall oaks towering over head. The grasslands and meadows fill with plenty of species of wildflowers and provide a beautiful backdrop to trot or canter through.
Temperatures soar to over 100 degrees gahrenheit in the higher, exposed altitudes. Pack sufficient water for the trail ride, with proper sun protection, and snacks. The horses can typically cool off and drink in the creeks along the way under the shade of the tall trees.
There are over 20 miles of remote terrain for hikers to explore in the magnificent Californian nature. Only service dogs are allowed on the trails. The park covers 5,683 acres of rugged landscape, tall trees, and trickling creeks. Following trails hikers can reach elevations ranging from 150 to 1500 feet in height.
If you plan to hike, aim for spring time as that is when the wildflowers put on a magnificent show for visitors. Temperatures during summer can also soar to over 100 degrees on the exposed rocky trails. Once you get deeper into the ravine, the trees, and creek beds do provide some welcome cool shade.
Choose the strenuous Austin Creek Trail through the sloping canyon to see some of the most beautiful views of the area. Recommended for experienced hikers only. Or the moderate Pool Ridge Trail with steep drops and rises through the dense hardwoods, which is better suited for most visitors.
If you pack your camping gear, water filter, and your own food you can also hike towards one of the remote back country trail camps. Those have fire rings and an outhouse for your comfort.