Explore Fern Canyon
California › Fern Canyon
Added by Juan Moreno
Amazing LandscapeForest CanyonPhoto OverloadGreat HikingCreekBeautiful LightingTrue Northern California TreasureLots of Ferns
Fern Canyon is located within Gold Bluffs Beach at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park located some 45 miles south of Crescent City, CA. Entrance to the beach area is located on Davidson Rd off the US-101 in Orick, CA. You will need to drive for about 6 miles on the dirt road at the turn of Davidson Rd. Lookout for the signs. Pay the day use fee to enter the State Park. You can do Fern Canyon in one day.
The trailhead begins at the parking lot which the dirt road ends at. The creek will be about 1/4 of a mile down the trail and this is where you follow the creek to the right. Fern Canyon begins here. Waterproof shoes are suggested unless you don't mind getting your feet wet.Feel free to explore as far in as you want. Just about everything here is worthy of a shot. The views are stunning. Word is that there is a trail the runs along the top off the canyon for those that want a longer hike. Other trails are located within this area leading to a waterfall. Long Exposure shots are nice here.
Check the forecast before you go. Fog is common in the area and when the sun peaks through, that is when the magic happens. This is a forest so be aware of your surroundings and travel in groups. Wildlife is common here. Check the National Park Service site for details on wildlife in the area and what precautions you should take.
- Hiking Pack
- Snacks (in a smell proof container or leave them in your car)
- Water shoes or Waterproof Hiking Shoes
- Utility Knife
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Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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A Treasured, Unique Landscape
This place is so fascinating if only for its distinct geological features. Standing in a canyon of ferns with walls over 40 feet high is surreal. One thing I would highly recommend bringing is knee-high rain boots. Depending on water levels, it is very difficult to proceed through the canyon without getting your feet wet. I wore my high ankle waterproof hiking boots and they weren't enough in most places. During the warmer months, they have footbridges in place, but during the colder months (winter/spring), you have to traverse it yourself. As others have said, wild elk frequent the area often and should not be fed/disturbed. While mostly docile, these animals are huge and can easily hurt you. Please keep your distance. Do be aware that the day use fee is $8.00 (cash only) which can be paid at the entrance gate. I was able to drive through the two small river crossings on the way to the trailhead with my Honda Insight, but it would have definitely helped to have an SUV. As always, be smart, and use your best judgment with the water levels.
I live less than an hour away so Fern Canyon is our go-to spot when family or friends come to visit. Access is always fun- a 6 mile drive down a dirt road through the redwoods, then opening up on the beach, a few small creek crossings (suv/truck is preferred but most cars can get through at the correct spots). It is a very short trail into the canyon from the parking lot. Please note State Parks do not allow dogs on their trails- you will get a ticket if they find you & your pup. The canyon is gorgeous and it's usually best to go in the am, before the crowds arrive. Lighting can be tricky in the canyon too so if you want good photos do not go around mid-day (shadows are too harsh). The canyon is not accessible for everyone. If you have any hip/leg injuries you may want help or to take the trail through the canyon as far as you can. There are many fallen trees you have to climb over/under to get through the trail. Lots of fun, but not so much if you have an injury. Once you get through to the end of the canyon try taking the loop trail that goes on the bluff just above the canyon. Not nearly as scenic, but there are a few views looking down into the canyon, and lots of skunk cabbage, fungi, and banana slugs! This upper trail also connects to multiple other trails that go for miles- make sure to take a map! The bluff loop trail ends at the entrance to the canyon so you are right back where you started. Walk down the creek to the field by the beach and you may see the herd of Elk there too- they frequent that area. DO NOT get too close though, they are wild animals and dangerous! *I would bring something to eat & drink (it's a long drive to the store) as well as some river shoes/waterproof shoes and an extra jacket/sweater as the fog rolls in fast.
One of the more unique easy to moderate hikes I've done! I would recommend going super early in the morning as this trail gets very crowded (I went at high tourist season and got to the trailhead around 6am. By around 11am when I got back to the parking lot it was completely full). I added on the James Irvine and miners ridge trails for a longer hike into the redwoods, and walked back to the parking lot on the beach. The hike was light on elevation gain and full of giants. It's also good to note that the road to this trailhead goes along a rough dirt road and crosses several streams - I saw a few smaller cars struggling on the terrain, so if you have access to an SUV I'd use it!
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