Salt Point Trail California State Park hike

If you’ve never walked between fifty foot walls of ferns, than you haven’t experienced a hike like Fern Canyon Trail. This short trek transports you through a cool moist canyon with fortress-like walls covered top to bottom in enchanting ferns. The trail starts just inland from a vacant stretch of the North Coast of California, and then turns inland into the lush shady forest housing Fern Canyon. The hike can be done as a 1.1-mile lollipop loop with 150 feet of elevation gain, but it is most enjoyable as a one mile out and back with 75 feet of elevation gain. Turn around at the top of Fern Canyon and replay the most exciting portion of the hike.

From the Fern Canyon Day Use Parking Area north of Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, proceed north on California Coastal Trail to the turnoff for Fern Canyon. Hang a right and make your way up the center of the fern furnished canyon. Expect your footwear to get a little wet from here. This trail crisscrosses a steady creek, and while there are several wooden footbridges, it is hard to escape without at least one wet toe. Wear scandals, and enjoy.

Fern Canyon
Plank bridges in Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon narrows to a width of less than thirty feet. The level bottom is boxed in by stout vertical walls. Water seeps from behind the tapestry of ferns to create a lush microclimate. You might find hiking up Fern Canyon like walking through a hedge maze, but there are no crossroads to be concerned with. The course is clear and the only obstacles are the meandering creek and downed trees strewn around the canyon.

Eight different species of ferns thrive in Fern Canyon. The easiest to spot is five-finger fern. Not only is it everywhere in the canyon, but it has an unmistakable multi-finger design. Sworn fern is also common. It has a pointy triangular shape, and can be spotted at the base of the canyon walls in low-light areas. This fern is common in redwood forests throughout the region.

Fern Canyon
Five-finger ferns on the wall of Fern Canyon

After a quarter mile in a fantasy world of ferns, the trail exits the left side of the canyon up a series of wooden steps. Turn around here and head back down the canyon, or of you prefer, see what the forest above has to offer.

Hiking up out of the canyon, go a tenth of a mile to Friendship Ridge Trail and turn left. The next 1/4 mile of trail goes through pristine pine forest back to the mouth of Fern Canyon. A short distance from the junction, pass an unmarked spur trail on the left that crosses a small meadow to the rim of Fern Canyon. You can enjoy a nice view down the trench from here before backtracking to the main trail.

Fern Canyon Trail provides a short unique hike. The trailhead has bathrooms and beach access. Camping is nearby. Dogs are not allowed on trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There is an $8 day use fee to enter the park but no permit is required to explore Fern Canyon. The dirt road between the 101 and the trailhead passes through a redwood forest that enhances the experience of visiting Fern Canyon.

Seasonal note: Fern Canyon may disappoint winter visitors. The ferns turn brown and the creek expands, making the canyon less enjoyable to walk up.

To get to the trailhead: From Highway 101, 2.5 miles north of Orick and 18 miles south of Klamath, turn west on to Davidson Road. Follow this road for four miles through a redwood forest to the park entrance station. Continue another two miles to the trailhead at the end of Gold Bluffs Beach Road.

Trailhead address: Gold Bluffs Beach Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick, CA 95555
Trailhead coordinates: 41.400618, -124.0657 (41° 24′ 02.22″N 124° 03′ 56.55″W)

Trail Map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Northern California trails and campgrounds.


Fern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon TrailFern Canyon Trail

These photos were taken in September of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Yurok Loop and Hidden Beach Yurok Loop and Hidden Beach
This 2.25-mile hike explores a rugged and beautiful area of California's north coast, combining Yurok Loop Trail and the Hidden Beach Section of Coastal Trail to visit beaches, forests, and ocean vistas.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods Stout Memorial Grove
This 0.55-mile hike explores an old growth grove of coastal redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Humboldt Redwoods Hike Founders Grove Nature Trail
This 0.5 mile loop explores an ancient grove honoring the founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Grieg-French-Bell Trail Grieg-French-Bell Trail
This half-mile loop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park explores redwood groves dedicated to Grieg, French, and Bell, crossing ground covered in redwood sorrel to visit the Girdled Tree, which had its bark stripped away and sent to San Francisco.
Drury-Chaney Trail Humboldt Redwoods Drury-Chaney Loop Trail
This 2.4-mile lollipop loop provides an easy and enchanting hike through redwood trees at the north end of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Humboldt Redwoods Hike Gould Grove Trail
This half mile loop explores an old growth redwood forest across from the visitor center in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Richardson Grove Redwoods Woodland Trail
This 1.25-mile loop explores patches of redwoods surrounded by a shaded oak forest in Richardson Grove Redwoods State Park.
Redwoods Hike Durphy Creek Trail - Tan Oak Springs Trail - Lookout Point Loop
This 3.75-mile loop climbs 1,000 feet to a forest ridge before descending to Lookout Point, where you can enjoy an unimpressive view to the south.
Hike Northern California More hikes in Northern California
Explore other trails in Northern California, including hikes in coastal parks and around Mount Shasta.
OK! Add to trails I’ve hiked
OK! Add to trails I want to hike
Tagged with · California State Parks · Creeks · Orick · Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance: 1.1 miles · Elevation change: 75 feet

29 Comments on Fern Canyon Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

  1. chelsea u wrote:

    where are there camping spots close to this? and what are the hours that the trail is open?

    • Megan wrote:

      The closest camping spots are at Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. They are only open during the summer, usually from Memorial to Labor Day and are always first-come-first-serve. The next closest and within the same park is at Elk Prairie campground, which is open year round. During the summer it is on reservation and the rest of the year it is first-come-first-serve.

  2. Brian Davis wrote:

    Can anyone tell me if this is a pet-friendly trail? I’m heading up that way in a couple of weeks and would love to know.

    • Susie wrote:

      It says that no dogs are allowed on the trails

    • John Taylor wrote:

      State parks usually do not allow dogs in them. The dogs tend to disrupt the wild life. Maybe not the little ones, but that’s the rule. Some dog owners don’t get keeping their dogs on a leash.

  3. Tai wrote:

    I would love to hike and see fern canyon. I plan on camping with my dog though. Is there any trails that are dog friendly? If not, how far from the day parking is the walls of fern? This is on my bucket list and I dislike the fact that I can’t bring my hiking buddy with me.

    • Don Cornell wrote:

      California state parks do not allow dogs. They love whacky regulations. Go to Oregon every state park I have visited allow dogs.

  4. dan wrote:

    This would of been nice to see

    • John wrote:

      This area is known for being anti dog areas. Mountain lions and bobcat in the area have been known to track and attack dogs.

      • Gar Salzgeber wrote:

        No trains in the area.
        Dogs are not allowed period! The reason most hiking trails are sterile is because they allow dogs on them. Dog owners think they are unique (among the other 200 people a day who want their dog to play) and let their dog off leash,
        Dogs are dogs, if they see anything move they want to play with it, sniff it, lick it, bite it and…eat it!
        This trail is unique because dogs haven’t impacted it. In today’s world nature has a hard time surviving. Let’s give her a break and close more trails to dogs. Trails could actually recover.

        • John Taylor wrote:

          I agree on the dog ban. The writer is correct-dogs are allowed to run free to the dismay of the rest of us. You can’t take your dog everywhere, get it?

        • I love hiking with my dog wrote:

          By your logic, close it to humans including children. Humans are the ultimate problems. Grafiti, carving, gathering.

        • Riley wrote:

          I don’t know what type of dogs you run into or meet, but as a Nature Enthusiast, my dog doesn’t have prey drive (which means he does NOT run off chasing animals, trying to eat or lick things) and he enjoys our many hikes. We pick up after him and he’s ALWAYS on leash. However, not every HUMAN dog owner is respectable like some of us. Many trails are closed off for restoration is generally due to HUMANS stomping around trying to make their own paths and not respecting nature and leaving their trash behind. Let’s be real and not blame animals for human doings.

        • cosmo wrote:

          Right. And the humans who left wooden planks all over the trail so hikers like you wouldn’t have to cry about getting your feet wet don’t make any kind of impact. Just what I want to see when I’m out hiking in an otherwise beautiful place like this is constant reminders of human impact around every corner.

  5. […] Fern Canyon Trail […]

  6. Jamie Schau wrote:

    Does anyone have the correct phone number to Fern Canyon park? The one I’m dialing – 707-465-7354 – is not working. I was trying to check and see if it was too rainy/flooded to enter the park by car.

  7. hikespeak wrote:

    Their website says (707)488-2039. Good luck!

  8. Sarah wrote:

    What is the weather like in December? Ok for camping? We’re planning a Christmas week trip and thought this might be fun.Thanks for your help.

  9. Vive wrote:

    Does this park have the train ride?

  10. Rich wrote:

    What’s the weather like end of September and what’s the best place to stay nearby?

  11. TPN wrote:

    I came to this place to check it out on April 12. It rained a lot and walking the stream upward to the canyon required rain boots which I did not have so I could not check out the fern canyon :( and I was so close too. I should have just ford the river but time was also a factor as well as we were there around 6pm; it was my bad on my part there.

    But the biggest concern is driving there. Someone needs to cover up the many, MANY potholes on this road as me and others driving there was afraid of damaging something under my car and made getting there SO slow and my brakes constantly being used with all the stop and go. Someone also needs to put a bridge of some sort on the stream that appears on the road up to fern canyon. My car is a RAV4 so it’s raised higher but does not have 4WD.

  12. Dianna wrote:

    The lack of understanding for those of us who have “man’s best friend,” is deplorable. The meaning of responsibility and environmental impact isn’t lost on the choir, but on those pointing fingers ignorant of their own actions. Thank you for ruining it for those of us paying attention.

  13. Joe Queirolo wrote:

    Last time I was there it was wall-to-wall people, many families with small children, people walking with boomboxes blaring, a massive traffic jam in the parking lot. Not exactly the experience promised by the photos. More like a ferny Disneyland.

  14. berta gutierrez wrote:

    the fern canyon beautiful. the comments some negative. I like to know how to get from La to the canyon is there any other way to get there beside driven ?

  15. […] Gold Bluffs Beach Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick, CA 95555. (I got this from the Hike’s Peak […]

Ask a question or share your experience

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go the extra miles...
Submit a rating of this hike to go with your comment. Contribute to the average trail rating.