20 votes

Fern Canyon Hike

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick, California 95555 USA

Closed Now
Opens Wed 6a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair
  • Public

“filming location for The Lost World”

Dim and quiet, wrapped in mist and silence, the redwoods roof a moist and mysterious world. Park trails meander over lush ground and the walker is treated to the cool feeling and fragrance of wood and water.  A couple beautiful “fern canyons” are found along the North Coast, but the Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is undoubtedly the most awe-inspiring. Five-finger, deer, lady, sword, and chain ferns smother the precipitous walls of the canyon. Bright yellow monkeyflowers abound, as well as fairy lanterns, those creamy white, or greenish, bell-shaped flowers that hang in clusters. Ferns are descendants of an ancient group of plants which were much more numerous 200 million years ago. Ferns have roots and stems similar to flowering plants, but are considered to be a primitive form of plant life because they reproduce by spores, not seeds.  Gold Bluffs was named in 1850 when prospectors found some gold flakes in the beach sand. The discovery caused a minor gold rush. A tent city sprang up on the beach but little gold was extracted.  Gold Bluffs Beach is a beauty— eleven miles of wild, driftwood-littered shore, backed by extensive dunes. Sand verbena, bush lupine, and wild strawberry splash color on the sand.  This walk explores some of the highlights of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park—Fern Canyon, magnificent redwood groves, and Gold Bluffs Beach.  Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101, three miles north of Orick, turn west on Davison Road. The dirt, washboard road (suitable only for vehicles under 24 feet in length) descends logged slopes and through second-growth redwoods to the beach. The road heads north along Gold Bluffs Beach. One and a half miles past the campground, the road dead-ends at the Fern Canyon Trailhead.  The hike: The path leads along the pebbled floor of Fern Canyon. In the wettest places, the route follows wooden planks across Home Creek. With sword and five-finger ferns pointing the way, you pass through marshy areas covered with wetlands grass and dotted with a bit of skunk cabbage. Lurking about are Pacific giant salamanders.  A half mile from the trailhead, the path climbs out of the canyon to intersect James Irvine Trail, named for a man who contributed much to the formation of redwood parks.  The James Irvine Trail crosses to the south side of the canyon and proceeds southeast with Home Creek. The trail reaches the upper neck of Fern Canyon and junctions with Clintonia Trail. (James Irvine Trail continues ascending through dense redwood forest to a trailhead near the park visitors center.) Clintonia Trail leads a mile through virgin redwood groves to a junction with Miners Ridge Trail. Bear right.  Part of Miners Ridge Trail is an old logging road, once used by mule-drawn wagons. The trail was also a pack train route for the Gold Bluffs miners. You’ll descend with Squashan Creek to the ocean.  It’s a 1.5 mile beach walk along Gold Bluffs Beach back to the trailhead.  Lucky walkers might catch a glimpse of the herd of Roosevelt elk that roam the park. These graceful animals look like a cross between a South American llama and a deer, and convince walkers that they have, indeed, entered an enchanted land.  The prehistoric ambience led to the canyon being used as a filming location for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs and IMAX's Dinosaurs Alive!

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Reviewed by
Kori and Brian Truono

  • Road Warrior
  • 78 Reviews
  • 108 Helpful
May 13, 2014

They filmed a few scenes from Jurassic Park 2 in this canyon - and once you are in it, you can see why!! You just keep expecting a raptor to jump out from every turn. Scientists estimate that some of the fern species in this canyon date back millions of years. Expect to get your shoes wet unless you are an excellent stream crosser.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 5 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
June 27, 2016
Rated 5.0

I had wondered what I had gotten into when we started out on the unpaved logging road. However, we stopped to snap a picture of Roosevelt elk antlers poking out of the grass. Then, as we walked to the canyon, other hikers kept telling us, "It's worth the journey," and, "You'll love it!" They were so right. The only thing I would add to the other reviews is that, unfortunately, our shoes didn't get wet. Many places were dry creek bed, and the park service did have some little foot bridges to help in places. Lastly, this might have been the only spot on our vacation where we needed bug spray. Mosquitoes were vicious in mid-June.

We took a few minutes to walk out to the shore and got a beautiful shot of a great blue heron. So very worth that twisty road that made me bite my nails!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • Road Warrior
  • 401 Reviews
  • 221 Helpful
August 21, 2014
Rated 5.0

Redwoods State Park is probably one of the most beautiful parks in California. Especially the Fern Canyon is a great place for anyone looking for an adventurous hike in misty and wet landscapes that are surrounded by tall trees.

The whole scenery in some place reminded me of tropical rain forest, and is no wonder why some shots of Jurassic Park were filmed here !!! Don't forget to take your camera with you, you will be pleasantly surprised of how beautiful this place is!!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
H. Adam Lenz

  • 6 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
August 08, 2017
Rated 5.0

A really beautiful spot. You will have to drive on a dirt road which is well packed, occasionally you will have to drive through a shallow stream. 2-3 inches tall. Don't be scared, I saw a fiat drive through it. Wear shoes that can get wet, flip flops are better if you have good ones with traction. Some of the people looked like they were taking more dangerous routes while trying to keep their shoes dry.

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Reviewed by

  • 17 Reviews
  • 3 Helpful
June 18, 2017
Rated 5.0

Everyone's favorite hike spot. We had an awesome time exploring.

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Reviewed by

  • 332 Reviews
  • 173 Helpful
September 30, 2014
Rated 5.0

If you've ever wanted to walk between 50-foot walls of ferns then this is the place for you. Not a long hike and expect your shoes to get a little wet.

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Fern Canyon Hike

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Orick, California
95555 USA


Closed Now
  • Sun - Sat: 6:00 am - 6:00 pm

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  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi

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