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Fern Canyon

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

July 5th, 2007

0.8 miles
130 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:08

Rating: 9/10

Directions: From Eureka, take Highway 101 north. Exit at Davison Road just past the town of Orick. Follow Davison Road (which is partly paved, and mostly gravel) for about 3.5 winding miles down toward the ocean. Here you'll have to pay a day use fee at the kiosk. If you are camping in Prairie Creek, show your parking permit and you get in for free. We'd arrived late the night before so hadn't gotten a parking permit, but we showed our camping reservations and the ranger let us in. After passing the kiosk, drive another 3.5 miles along a level dirt road to the trailhead. Along the way you'll see the ocean on your left, you'll pass by Gold Bluffs Beach campground, and also will have to drive through some shallow water. It's nice to have an SUV here, but it's not necessary.   View Driving Map

The parking lot was about half full when we arrived at the trailhead around 11am. It would be mostly full by the time we finished the hike. This is a very popular hike, despite the drive to the trailhead.

Forest before the canyon

Dew drops

The hike starts out level through a pretty forest devoid of the redwood trees more commonly found in the area. After just about a tenth of a mile, you'll reach the first trail intersection. Turn right to head toward Fern Canyon, which is drained by Home Creek. You'll immediately start walking on the gravel next to the shallow creek, and quickly be surrounded by ferns on all sides. It's a beautiful sight. We walked slowly with a sense of awe as we headed up the creek. The ferns line the canyon walls which rise up 50 feet high.

Entering Fern Canyon

Further up the canyon

Further still

The canyon gets narrow in some places, which only adds to the experience. There are wooden planks placed here and there to cross over the creek in a few places. You'll notice trees up on top of the canyon walls leaning over; some have already fallen in. I imagine it's not the safest place to be during a rainstorm or when it's windy. But today it was a perfectly still day.

Admiring the ferns on either side of Home Creek

Ferns over Home Creek

Crossing one of the planks

Moss on the canyon wall

Eventually the trail sadly leaves the canyon, climbing up steeply, assisted by some wooden steps. Once on top, the trail heads back downstream, but far above the creek now. You'll soon reach another trail intersection. The right fork leads up the James Irvine Trail, which goes all the way up to the Prairie Creek campground. You could do a 9 mile loop starting from camp. Alternatively, if you have enough people or can find someone in camp you can trust, you could do a shuttle trip, with half your group hiking downhill and half of them driving down and hiking uphill, passing the car keys in the middle.

Forest above Fern Canyon

We took the left fork, which heads back toward the parking lot. Although completely different from the fern-filled canyon, this is actually a beautiful section of trail in its own right. The forest is beautiful here, and the trail is all slightly downhill now.

Trail through the forest

The trail actually pops out onto the gravel next to Home Creek. From here, continue down the short distance to the trail you started on and turn left to head to the parking lot.

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