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Fern Canyon Hike – Northern California Redwoods

The Fern Canyon hike is a destination like no other. A canyon in the California redwood forest that is completely covered in ferns from the creek floor all the way…

The Fern Canyon hike is a destination like no other. A canyon in the California redwood forest that is completely covered in ferns from the creek floor all the way to the tops of the canyon walls.

A small gentle creek runs through the canyon and water drips down the sides of the fern walls. Steven Spielberg described Fern Canyon as “an unforgettable natural wonder” and he even decided to film parts of Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World there.

Hiking through Fern Canyon was on the top of my adventure list. Here is more info:

fern canyon hike

Details 

  • Fern Canyon Trail is about 1/4 mile from parking lot 
  • $8 cash or check for parking
  • Dogs are NOT allowed on the trail into the Canyon

Fern Canyon Hike Video

Check out my Fern Canyon California video:

The park is located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California. It is about 2 miles outside a small town called Orick. 

The drive to the Fern Canyon is beautiful in itself. You will be driving through the redwoods and along the beautiful coastline on highway 101. If you are going north form Orick you will turn left onto Davison Road about 2 miles after Orick. From here you will drive through Elk Meadow (make sure you look in the meadow and see there are any Elk) 

elk meadow prairie creek state park

Then you will start up a small gravel road.

gravel road that leads to fern canyon

The gravel road winds through the redwoods for about 6 miles.

fern canyon hike drive

You will then reach the pay station. 

pay to enter fern canyon hiking area

After paying to enter the park, the road opens up a little (you can even see the ocean)

beach in prairie creek state park

Continue about 3 more miles until you reach where the road dead ends into the parking lot and Fern Canyon hike trail head. 

parking area of fern canyon trail

*The road that you drive on to get to Fern Canyon is a very dusty and long gravel road. There are also parts of the road with very large pot holes and standing water that you have to cross.

There are no trailers allowed on the road. Also it is doable by cars but I would recommend a larger car if possible. We didn’t have to use 4×4 but some parks of the road were difficult and small cars had problems passing. 

rough road leading to the parking lot

If you car can’t make it all the way to the parking lot trail head you can park along the road and just hike down the rest of the road to reach the trail head.

Also, keep in mind that during the rainy months hikes in the canyon can be limited due to road conditions so make sure you check out the Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park website before heading out.

When you reach the parking area and trail head there is a bathroom and a few picnic tables. 

bathrooms

The Trail

The hiking trail is clearly marked and is right at the end of the road you just entered on.

fern canyon hike 0.1 mile

The trail in is only about 1/4 mile before you reach the start of Fern Canyon. It is a very easy trail to reach the start of the canyon and only took a couple of minutes. 

hiking trail to canyon

When you reach the start of fern canyon you will know because you will see the stream. There will also be a little trail off to your left (James Irvine Trail) that trail will take you up above the canyon if you want to check it out from above.

james irvine trail california redwoods state park

We choose to walk right down the canyon floor. If you want to walk through the canyon like we did just start following the stream.

home creek

This stream is called Home Creek. Since it winds the entire area of Fern Canyon I would recommend that you bring waterproof shoes or boots. It also gets a bit muddy near the end of the canyon We wore rubber boots and were so glad that we did. 

fern canyon hike california redwoods

I saw of ton of people carrying their wet shoes and trying their best to stay dry. It was nice to be able to just walk right through the creek and enjoy beauty of the canyon without having to worry about our feet getting wet. 

In the summer months they do install these little foot bridges across the creek. They were nice but I would still recommend waterproof shoes.

walking bridge over home creek

Once you get into the Canyon you will be amazed. You are literally surrounded by ancient ferns 50 feet up the walls of the Canyon. I grew up in the redwoods and have seen a ton of ferns but never have I seen something like this it was amazing. 

fern canyon hike

About halfway in the canyon you will notice that there are places where there is water dripping down the canyon walls. Almost like a small waterfalls but it was a constant drip down the ferns in the creek below. 

water falls and moss on fern canyon hike california redwoods

As you go deeper into the canyon there are some downed trees that add the the beauty of the hike. You will weave around and under the trees to see even more of the canyon. This part of the trail does start getting a little bit muddy. 

downed redwood trees in the canyon

if you continue down the canyon you will reach stairs that take you to the top of the canyon where you can walk back out the trail above the canyon or you can turn around and walk back through the canyon. We went back through since it was just so pretty we wanted to see it all again. 

fern canyon end of trail

Northcoast Weather

You can see in my pictures that I am wearing a tank top since it was pretty warm the weekend that we visited. Normally in this area, even during the summer, the weather is very unpredictable and is often rainy and foggy so you might want to bring a sweatshirt or jacket just in case. 

family pic at fern canyon hike california redwoods

More About Fern Canyon 

Fern Canyon is located in the Prarie Creek Redwoods state park in Humboldt County California. It is park of the Redwood National Park and was named after the 5 species of ancient ferns that cover the canyon walls. It is a popular destination and has even be the location of filming for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Walking with Dinosaurs and Dinosaurs Alive!

ferns next to home creek fern canyon hike

Not only is the Fern Canyon hike a sight to see it is located where the redwoods meets the ocean so you get to enjoy the redwood forest on one side the the ocean on the other. There are also wild Roosevelt Elk that wander the area (if you see them just don’t get too close).

On the way to Fern Canyon there are a day use areas where you can pull out to enjoy the beach for the day and even a camping area if you decide you want to stay the weekend. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to adventure to Fern Canyon and check it off my California bucket list. I can’t wait to go back again soon! 

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