Fern Canyon (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP) 30-Sep-2015

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California

For a change of pace, we decided to do a couple of hikes in the state and federal redwood parks in Northern California. Timing-wise, now is sort of a sweet spot between the crowded summer tourist season and the onset (hopefully) of the rainy season. After a night in Crescent City, California, we drove down to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park for a hike through the Murrelet State Wilderness to Gold Bluffs Beach via Fern Canyon. Our plan was an out-and-back on the James Irvine Trail from park headquarters but this would become a loop as we discovered trails not shown on the CalTopo maps. This is part of Hike #100 in Sullivan’s Oregon Coast & Coast Range hiking and travel guide (Third Edition, 2014), but we did a much longer loop than he discribes.¬†We drove the Drury Parkway to the trailhead at the park’s visitor center. From there, we crossed the creek,

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Prairie Creek

and went through the woods on the James Irvine Trail, which had been re-routed up out of the Godwood Creek drainage (not every map we saw had picked-up on this change).

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Along the James Irving Trail

Again, an easy hike through groves of very tall trees,

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Along the James Irving Trail

and sometimes through the trees themselves.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
A natural passage in one of the big trees

It was interesting to note that the clover ground cover was green on top (like all the other plants) but bright red underneath.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
The red side of the clover

After 5 miles we reached Fern Canyon, whose 50-foot deep walls are covered with seven different species of fern (details). It feels prehistoric to such an extent that Steven Spielberg chose it as a location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Ferns are thick in Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Near the end of Fern Canyon

Home Creek, which formed and runs through Fern Canyon, empties into the Pacific Ocean at a day use area at the end of the Gold Bluffs Beach road.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Gold Bluffs Beach

After pondering our maps, we realized we could do a loop hike if we walked about a mile south on the beach road to the Miner’s Ridge Trail (but one not shown on every map) and then took that remarkably gentle and easy trail east along Sqashan Creek and through the forest to the visitor center. And so we did.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Returning along the Miner’s Ridge Trail

An excellent day for a walk among the redwoods, along with a look at a unique canyon and a (short) visit to the beach! The weather was excellent and the crowds missing. Win, win! Overall, 13 miles roundtrip; with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.

Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park California
Our loop hike to Fern Canyon and Gold Beach and back

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