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Going Jurassic

Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.8 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  Fern Canyon is a surrealistic and amazing display of primal ferns growing in a narrow 50-foot-deep vertical walled canyon. The floor... more »

Tips:  Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
127011 Newton B. Drury Parkway
Orick, CA 95555
(707) 465-7335
(707) 465-7347

Latitude: 41.363838
... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Getting There and Parking

Getting there is part of the fun on this walk. Take the Davidson Road exit off HWY 101 at the south end of the park. The road in traverses low coastal hills through recovering second growth spruce, fir, and redwood forests.

The road is primarily a well-graded former dirt logging road heading out to the coast which is easily passable in any two... More

2. Bench and Vista

The trail follows the base of the bluffs along the beach meadows. Eventually it enters a forested area with the undergrowth progressively becoming very lush.

A bench along the trail looks out toward the coast and Fern Canyon creek outflow meadow.

Along the way, numerous springs can create boggy conditions along the trail.

3. Creek Crossing

Nearing the entrance to Fern Canyon the trail passes over a series of portable footbridges and the canyon creek outflow.

4. Fern Canyon Mouth

After crossing the creek, Fern Canyon begins to open up ahead. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking.

Come prepared to walk through a shallow creek in places. You may even want to bring some dry socks for later.

The canyon beyond the mouth is narrow and generally steep to vertically-sided. Most of it is 50 feet-deep, though the... More

5. Junction/Trailhead

The California Coastal Trail heads North from here and continues to a walk-in campground: Ossagon Trail Camp.

Several other major trails can be accessed from this point as well and include:
James Irvine Trail to Park HQ 4.5 miles
Friendship Ridge Trail
Clintonia Trail 1.8 miles

Look for the marked trail head just on the north side of the creek ... More

6. The Canyon Floor

The canyon quickly narrows up with the sides becoming quite vertical. Periodically the winter rains flood and scour the floor, leaving behind shattered limbs and tree trunks.

The entire canyon floor becomes the trail. Feel free to wander around, taking in the fern foliage. If you're a parent with a wicked sense of humor, have the kids watch ... More

7. Trail Head

A moderately easy-to-miss sign directs the hiker to a small trail and steps up the northerly side of the canyon. Beyond that, the canyon transitions to a more typical open stream that's packed with heavy vegetation.

8. View

Heading up the trail will be a series of stairs and a twisting trail. The vegetation dries out, quickly transitioning to Spruce and Alder. Near the top will be the first views overlooking the canyon and across the other side. This would be the first spot one can see any distance since entering the Canyon Trail.

9. Junction

Friendship Ridge Trail to the West Ridge Trail.

Continuing on, the trail winds gently through the mixed Spruce/Alder forest, periodically crossing small streams and springs.

10. Junction

A side trail heading southerly toward the canyon. This trail is marked by steps down a short grade that lead to a meadow.

11. Viewpoint

Crossing the meadow via the most worn foot trails will lead you to the canyon overlooks. Across the meadow are also a couple of springs with boggy areas.

Keep in mind, there are no safety rails at the cliff edges and the drop here is vertical. At points along the cliff edge the ground can be weak.

On this visit there was ample evidence of Elk... More

12. Boardwalk Start

A boardwalk forms a significant portion of the trail ahead, and a large bog and spring area flows through. This would correspond to a portion of the canyon with small waterfalls.

After the boardwalk the trail begins a downgrade to return toward the mouth of Fern Canyon.

13. Overlook into Fern Canyon

Overlooking the mouth of Fern Canyon.

14. Closing the Loop

Close the loop and return to the canyon mouth.

15. Return to Trail Head

The trail returns to the canyon mouth. Simply follow the trail back out to the parking area.