Getting to Fern Canyon takes a bit of work, but you’ll be glad you did. From Highway 101 at Orick, drive unpaved Davison Road 10 miles to this a hidden paradise of ferns lining a narrow gorge carved out by Home Creek in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Some of the seven different types of ferns clinging to the steep cliffs are ancient species, with ancestry tracing back 325 million years. Living underneath their leafy shade are some eye-catching amphibians, including Pacific giant salamanders, which can measure nearly a foot long.
The trail to Fern Canyon follows a series of small footbridges (installed in summer) deep into the canyon. Drooping ferns create hanging gardens, miniature waterfalls pour down rock faces, and moss wallpapers every surface. The walls grow taller and squeeze tighter as you travel.
If you think this looks familiar, it’s probably because you saw the Steven Spielberg movie, Jurassic Park II, which includes a scene filmed within this canyon. Every curve and turn leads to another amazing view. Far too soon, the trail curves left and ascends out of the canyon, then loops back to the parking lot. More than a few Fern Canyon hikers choose to retrace their steps instead of continuing on the loop—it’s just too hard to leave this special place (and it is only a one-mile loop trail).
NOTE: It’s wet on this trail. When hiking Fern Canyon, river sandals or waterproof boots are highly recommended.
DURING WINTER MONTHS:
Before venturing out, check for road and trail conditions throughout Redwood National and State Parks at three park visitor center locations:
Current road and trail conditions: See Park Website.
This level trail of about one mile follows Home Creek as it courses through the forest. This modest stream has over the eons carved a deep (50 to 80 feet) canyon through the sedimentary soils. The vertical walls sprout an amazing variety of ferns (five different kinds) and other moisture-loving plants and mosses. Depending on the time of year, there is a constant drip-drip of water trickling down the canyon walls.
DURING WINTER MONTHS:
Foot bridges are installed over the creek to make this trail easier (and dryer), but it is generally passable year-round if one is nimble and can tolerate getting damp. You can hike into the canyon and back, or continue on to a trail/stairway that climbs out of the canyon. At the top, turn left to return along the canyon rim, with fine views into the canyon and other interesting sights. A verdant prairie is the site of a former mining camp from the days when Gold Bluffs Beach was, in fact, mined for gold dust (a venture that was never very profitable).
Plan B: Fern Canyon can be reached by a moderate five-mile hike on the James Irvine Trail, beginning at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center.
- Kocher Visitor Center, just off Hwy. 101 south of Orrick, CA
- ]Prairie Creek Visitor Center located along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
- Houthi Visitor Center along Hwy. 199 just west of Houthi, CA
- These visitor centers are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Directions to Fern Canyon:
- From Hwy 101, drive approx. 2 mile north of Orick to Davison Road and turn left. .
- Follow through Elk Meadow and onto dirt road (motorhomes and trailers are not allowed on this road). Follow this spectacular scenic drive for 6 miles until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach kiosk. Pay the $8.00 day use fee (cash or check only). California State Park and National Park Service passes are accepted.
- Follow the road along the beach for another 3 miles (fording through several small streams — do-able by car) until the parking lot at the end.
- The trailhead to Fern Canyon is there, about 1/4 mile from the actual start of the canyon.
SPECIAL NOTICE: After rains, hikes into the canyon can be limited. Call 707-488-2039 for detailed info.
Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, Davision Rd. to Gold Bluffs Beach, Gold Bluffs Beach, CA | Tel: (707) 465-7354 |
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Our thanks to the Humboldt County Visitors Bureau for use of their webpage on Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods SP as the part of this article in our Eureka Local Guide.
Eureka California Outdoor Activities Guide
Within walking distance, a short hop in your car, or a day-long driving loop with lots of stops along the way, you will find some of the most beautiful Eureka California Outdoor Activities and experiences in the world outside your door. Eureka, California and the Town House Motel make a great place to stay while exploring the Northern California coastal, forests, foothills and mountains by trail or winding road.
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