Fern Canyon inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Written by www.casago.com’s Local Expert


Prepare to see a State Park like never before at Fern Canyon in Orick, California. Within the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park lies this remarkable natural landscape that is not brought to justice simply by photos. It's even been used as a film location on multiple occasions due to how unique and magical it is! For example, it's been featured in Jurassic Park II, the Steven Spielberg film. It's no wonder people come here to propose to their significant others!

How To Get To Fern Canyon

First things first, you must request a permit online via the National Park Services website listed in this page. This is required from May 2022-September 2022 and must be set up ahead of time. Getting to Fern Canyon is a short drive from the Redwood Coast Area. It takes just about 30 minutes from the city of Trinidad and 45 minutes from Arcata. Getting to the Fern Canyon trail can be a little tricky, but you will be glad you did it. There are two ways to reach Fern Canyon:

  1. Drive through Davison road for about 10 miles off Highway 101
  2. Park at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center and hike the James Irvine Trail

With the first option, you will have all the comforts of your car for most of the way to the canyon. You'll just have a 1 mile hike through the forest and some streams - you'll probably get wet! If you go through Davison road, you will be subject to a Day Use Permit fee which is $12.00. Though do not offer credit card payments, so you must bring cash or check.

Alternatively, if you're looking for more of an adventurous hike and you want to avoid the permit fee, the second option will be more your style. The James Irvine Trail is considered a moderate hike, coming in at 9 miles. This is a pretty scenic hike so if you're up for the challenge, this is an awesome way to explore the State Park.

Inside the Park

Upon arrival to the Canyons, you will be stunned. Towering, lush ferns cover the walls from top to bottom and provide an unreal experience. As many have said, pictures do not do it justice. As you walk through the trail, you'll be even more immersed as the walls close in at incredible height.

There are streams throughout the trail regardless of which route you take to get to the canyon, so you will likely get wet. There are usually footboards in more wet areas to help you walk through, but we recommend using footwear suitable for water activity. But, you can also just bring a change of shoes for comfort later. Where does the water come from? To make things even more magical, there are small waterfalls throughout.


  • Dogs are not allowed on any trails within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park due to potential dangers posed to your animals and the nature life within the park.
  • Dogs are allowed on the beach, in campgrounds, in parking lots, and on roads within the park, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
  • Day Use Permits are required for the Fern Canyon Trail & Gold Bluffs Beach
  • Permits must be requested online via the website listed here.

What’s Included

  • Free Parking at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Local Tips

  • Wear river sandals or some sort of waterproof footwear!
  • Canyon access can be limited during the winter when it rains.
  • Day Use Permit fee is $12.00, bring cash! Credit Cards are not accepted.
  • No seasonal footbridges available over the creek in Fern Canyon.
  • Permits are only issued online - you must get one ahead of time on the website.
  • State passes are accepted here.


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