Everything You Need To Know About Fern Canyon

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You’ve heard of slot canyons, but what about a fern canyon? Fern Canyon in Humboldt County might be worth considering if you’ve already experienced the red-rocked slot canyon and are looking for something new, or maybe you want to get away from the crowds.

Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about Fern Canyon and why it’s a great spot for adventuring. Let’s get started! 

About Fern Canyon in Humboldt County, CA 

Fern Canyon is possibly one of the most underrated places in northern California. The canyon is in far northwestern California near Redwood National and State Parks. Fern Canyon first got attention back in 1850 when gold was found nearby. 

For the most part, the canyon has been a bit of a hidden gem, though social media and movie productions have brought an influx of visitors periodically. One of the most notable movies that feature Fern Canyon is the second Jurassic Park film, “The Lost World”. 

This small canyon feels like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Ferns cover the canyon walls, giving the whole area a lush vibe. The canyon ranges from 50 ft to 80 ft deep, with Home Creek running through it. 

You’ll want to be prepared for wet feet as you explore the short hike through the canyon. To complete the trek, you will likely work your way through downed trees and other obstacles, but it is worth the effort. 

Fern Canyon covered in five different types of fern and a small river running through the middle of the walkway

What Ferns Are in Fern Canyon?

One of the fascinating aspects of Fern Canyon is the variety of ferns found here. Five different types of ferns call Fern Canyon home. It is awe-inspiring to see these five fern species intertwined together.

You can expect to see five-fingered ferns, deer, lady, sword, and chain ferns. These canyons would be awe-inspiring even if there were only one type of fern, but to have so many in one place gives it a magic sense of texture and depth. 

When Is the Best Time to Visit Fern Canyon?

Visitors can explore Fern Canyon all year round. While you can visit any day of the year, the summer will give you the best weather. Because your feet will be wet, the warmer temperatures make it more pleasant in summer versus winter. Those exploring the area in the winter will want to wear waterproof shoes and dress for chilly weather. 

A woman standing on a log in Fern Canyon looking away from the camera and into the beautiful scenery full of fern

How Long of a Hike is Fern Canyon? 

Fern Canyon is a short 1-mile hike. This hike has a 150 ft elevation gain throughout the “lolly-pop” style loop. Those not wanting or able to make the entire loop can instead simply walk only about a quarter of a mile into the hike, where they can find some beautiful steep leafy walls. Those opting for this shorter choice will only experience a 30-foot elevation gain.

Regardless if you make the entire trail or just a portion, you will encounter log jams that often build-up due to winter flooding. There are wooden footbridges in the canyon from June through September to assist hikers. 

Man walking on a wooden bridge, Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Can Dogs Go to Fern Canyon? 

You cannot bring dogs into Fern Canyon. Those with their four-legged friends will need to skip the canyon or leave them behind with a trusted friend. Thankfully, dogs are free to enjoy the nearby Golds Bluff Beach. So once your furry friend has patiently waited for you to finish your hike, you can reward them with some time playing in the sand. 

Pro Tip: You can make up for not taking your furry on the hike by buying them something nice. Here is some Dog Camping Gear You’ll Actually Use!

Do You Need a Permit to Hike Fern Canyon?

No, you don’t need a permit to hike Fern Canyon, but you will need a parking pass during certain months if you plan to drive in. From May 1 through September 30, visitors will need to apply for a free parking permit online. This helps create a less crowded experience in addition to helping protect the area. 

Getting to the Canyon

Visitors have the option to either drive or hike to the canyon. Parking directly at Fern Canyon requires an advanced parking reservation between May and September but does give you direct access to the canyon hike. Those hoping to prolong their experience can secure a parking permit to make the 11-mile round trip hike from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. 

Camping Options Near Fern Canyon

Those hoping to spend a few days digging in and enjoying the area may want to consider camping. A few nearby camping options will give you plenty of time to explore the Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach. Take a look at a few of our top choices for Fern Canyon camping options. 

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

Address: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, Davison Rd, Orick, CA 95555
Season Dates: Year-round
Sites Available: 26 tents and car camping only; vehicles must be under 24 feet, and no trailers
Price: $35 per night

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground can only be reached by smaller vehicles as no trailers are permitted on the unpaved Davison Road, the only route to this campground.

There are no hookups, but there is a bathhouse available for visitors. There are fire pits, picnic tables, and bear-proof boxes at each site. When visiting Fern canyon, you can make reservations through the park’s reservation system. 

A wall of fern growing over the small river

Elk Prairie Campground

Address: 127011 Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy, Orick, CA 95555
Season Dates: Year-round, except for the northern loop, which is closed in the winter months. 
Sites Available: There are 76 sites in total. Sites 1 to 4 are cabin rentals, with the remainder of the sites being primitive. 
Price: $35 per night 

This campground is primitive, with no hookups provided. The cabins have electricity, but those staying there must use the campground’s community bathrooms.

Motorhomes up to 27 ft are allowed, and trailers up to 24 ft in length. Sites have fire pits, picnic tables, and bear-proof boxes. You can make reservations through the state park’s reservation system.

Continue the Adventure: Don’t want the CA adventure to end? Then visit 7 California National Parks in one Road Trip in an RV!

Plan Ahead to Visit This Magical Destination

With most places, spending some time planning your trip pays out in the end. Visiting this stunning canyon can be a remarkable experience that you never forget, especially if you enjoy adventuring amongst thick vegetation and in unique environments. Make sure you bring your camera and plenty of space to take lots of pictures because you will take quite a few here.

Have you visited Fern Canyon during your adventures?

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