With ferns cascading down canyon walls and towering redwood trees nearby, it’s no wonder that the magnificent Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
Located at the end of a rough road in remote Humboldt County, about 300 miles north of San Francisco, the park’s natural beauty feels like a step back into ancient times before humans. Steven Spielberg famously shot scenes for his dinosaur movie “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” here, and Fern Canyon has made cameos in other films.
While the canyon is the star attraction, the massive redwoods that can grow up to 300′ tall and live for more than a thousand years are mighty impressive too. In fact, Prairie Creek is part of the Redwood National and State Parks group, which shelters 45% of California’s remaining old-growth redwoods.
Herds of Roosevelt elk also live here. Spotting the animals always makes for memorable wildlife viewing with their majestic antlers. Add waterfalls and rugged, beautiful beaches, and it’s easy to see why people make the long trek to this northwestern corner of California.
Make the long drive on Friday so that you have all day Saturday to spend in the park. It’s worth revisiting Fern Canyon in the morning via the short route before driving home.
Things to Do
Go camping if you can get a reservation.
Hike the short and easy trail to Fern Canyon, or take a longer route along the coast that includes Gold Bluffs Beach.
Keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk and dinosaurs (just kidding, but the elk are real).
Bicyclists can enjoy the 19-mile-long Ossagon Trail Loop.
Take a photo that’s worthy of hanging on your wall at home.
When to Go
It often rains heavily in the winter, so visit during the spring, summer, or fall.
Day-use fees are $12. In addition, you need a parking reservation for visits between May 1 and September 30.