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This Magical Canyon In California Is Straight Out Of Jurassic Park

Have you ever watched a movie like Jurassic Park and wished you could walk amongst the lush landscapes yourself?

(Minus the dinosaurs, of course.)

Well now you can!

There’s a little known hidden gem located in Northern California that’s remained untouched for thousands of years.

You’ll be able to walk through a deep canyon covered in foliage from top to bottom.

It really does feel like you’ve stepped back a thousand years.

In the rest of this guide, we’ll be covering this gem in depth and giving you all the information you need to experience it for yourself.

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon is a stunning natural wonder located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County.

It’s pretty unique. Imagine walking through a narrow canyon, where the walls on either side of you reach up to 50 feet high and are completely covered in lush, green ferns. 

It feels like walking through a natural green tunnel from prehistoric times.

Believe it or not, Fern Canyon has actually been used as a filming location for several movies including the second Jurassic Park film.

When you walk through the canyon, you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time because of its ancient, untouched look.

What makes Fern Canyon really special is its dense growth of lush green ferns. 

They literally cover everything from top to bottom and have even formed ‘walls’ that you can walk between.

The light filtering through the dense greenery creates a mystical atmosphere. It feels like a real-life fairytale!

Fun Fact: Ferns are one of the oldest plants on Earth. They’ve been around for over 300 million years!

There are actually several different types of ferns clinging to the walls of the canyon including sword ferns, maidenhair ferns and five-fingered ferns.

Look closely and you’ll see the differences.

Fern Canyon even acts as a natural laboratory! Scientists and researchers actually come to Fern Canyon to study the plants and learn more about ecology.

The floor of the canyon is a stream bed, so depending on the season, you might be walking through shallow water or over a moist, muddy path. So expect to get a little wet!

If anything, it just adds to the adventure!

It can be a bit challenging though so wearing the right shoes is important. I’d recommend something waterproof.

They do install wooden footbridges if the water becomes too deep so hikers don’t get their feet soaked.

You’ll also find some fallen logs along the route which you may have to climb over as you go.

If you’re coming to Fern Canyon for the first time then you can expect a magical hike that’s not too long but incredibly memorable. This place really is a hidden gem!

The hike through Fern Canyon itself is quite short. It’s about a mile round trip. 

It takes most people around an hour to complete but this depends on how much time you spend admiring the scenery and taking photos.

However there’s more to explore in the area if you’re up for it! This includes longer trails that connect to Fern Canyon which are a great way to extend your adventure.

You might also be able to spot small wildlife like birds, insects, and even larger animals like elk in the surrounding forest. 

Sometimes you can even hear the distant roars of sea lions from the nearby coast. Pretty exciting, right!?

Also, don’t forget to take lots of photos! The fern-covered walls, the sunlight filtering through the trees and the small waterfalls make this place incredible for photos. 

Remember to capture the beauty but also to enjoy the moment and the natural beauty around you.

To reach Fern Canyon, you’ll need to be prepared for a bit of a drive along some dirt roads. I’ve included a detailed explanation on how to get there later in the guide.

Once there, besides the canyon, the surrounding area also offers beautiful beaches, other hiking trails and the chance to see wildlife like elk in their natural habitat.

Just remember to respect the environment and leave no trace behind so that this beautiful spot remains untouched for generations to come.

Despite its beauty, Fern Canyon is somewhat off the beaten path.

It’s located in a remote part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle.

Tips For Visiting

Hiking through Fern Canyon in Northern California is definitely an adventure you won’t forget! 

Here’s what you need to know before you lace up your hiking boots and head out onto the trail:

Best Time to Visit

Spring and early summer are great times to visit because the stream flow is higher which means the ferns are at their lushest. 

However, the canyon is beautiful year-round. There’s really no bad time to visit!

Fern Canyon can get busy, especially during the summer. Try to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.


Since you might be walking through water and mud, wear waterproof shoes or boots that you don’t mind getting dirty.

It’s also recommended that you bring an extra pair of dry shoes to wear after the hike.


Bring a light jacket as the canyon can be cooler than the surrounding area and you might get splashed by the stream.

Leave No Trace

This is a fragile ecosystem so stay on the path, don’t pick plants and take all your trash with you.

It’s really important for us to preserve this astonishing ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.

Parking and Fees

There is a parking fee at the trailhead. Currently, it’s $12 per vehicle.

They only accept cash or checks, credit cards aren’t accepted.

It can get crowded later in the day so I’d recommend arriving early to ensure you get a spot.

Please note that from May 1st to Sept 30th, a free parking permit is required. These are easy to obtain online. Check the latest information here.

Bring Water and Snacks

There aren’t any shops in the canyon so bring water and some snacks to keep you energized during your visit.

No Pets

Unfortunately pets aren’t allowed on the trail unless it’s a service animal.

Things To Do Nearby

If you want to extend your trip to Fern Canyon then there are plenty of other activities nearby.

Exploring the Beach

Just a short drive or walk from Fern Canyon, you can explore the beautiful Gold Bluffs Beach. 

This beach is great for walking, playing in the sand or just relaxing and watching the waves. 

If you visit during the right time of year, you might also get to see whales migrating off the coast.


There are picnic areas near Fern Canyon where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by the beauty of nature. 

Pack a lunch and enjoy some time with family and friends in this picturesque setting.

Wildlife at Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon isn’t just a beautiful place to explore, it’s also a fantastic spot to see a variety of wildlife. 

As you wander through this lush canyon, keep your eyes peeled because here’s some of the wildlife you might encounter:


The dense canopy of ferns and the tall trees in the surrounding forest provide the perfect home for many different bird species. 

You could spot birds like the American dipper, which is known for bobbing up and down on rocks in the stream, and the varied thrush with its beautiful calls. 


If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Roosevelt elk roaming in the nearby meadows or even crossing through the canyon. 

These majestic animals are truly a sight to behold but remember to keep a safe distance. 

You don’t want to startle them as the elk have been known to kick and charge at hikers if they feel threatened.

The National Park Service recommends giving the elk as much space as possible. They say you should leave the length of a school bus between you and the elk.

Smaller mammals like raccoons, squirrels and maybe even a black-tailed deer might also make an appearance along the trail.

Amphibians and Reptiles

Keep an eye on the moist, shady areas and you might find salamanders and frogs. 

The cool, damp environment of Fern Canyon is perfect for these critters. 

While reptiles might be less common due to the cooler, damp conditions, you might still be able to spot a garter snake basking on a sunny rock.


Fern Canyon’s rich biodiversity also includes a variety of insects. 

From butterflies fluttering around the ferns to various beetles & centipedes scurrying across the forest floor, there’s a lot to discover for those who take the time to look closely.

Insider Tips for Wildlife Watching

  • Be Quiet and Patient: Many animals are shy and easily startled. If you walk quietly and keep your voice down, you’re more likely to see wildlife.

  • Visit Early or Late in the Day: Many animals are most active during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon.

  • Stay on the Trails: Not only does this protect the habitat, but it also increases your chances of seeing wildlife, as animals are more likely to be nearby.

  • Look and Listen: Sometimes, you’ll hear wildlife before you see it. Listen for the rustle of leaves, bird calls and other sounds of nature.

How To Get There

Getting to Fern Canyon is an adventure all by itself! 

Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, near the coast of northern California, this hidden gem is a bit off the beaten path but totally worth the journey. 

Here’s how you can get there:

Start from Highway 101 which is a major road that runs through California and is your gateway to the park. 

Whether you’re coming from the north or the south, find your way to Highway 101.

Look for signs to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. You’ll turn onto Davison Road which is the main road leading you closer to Fern Canyon. 

This part is important: Davison Road is unpaved for some of its length and it can be narrow and winding. Watch out for potholes!

If you’re visiting during the wet season, the road might be a bit muddy or have puddles so driving carefully is important.

As you drive along Davison Road, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful, tall trees. Enjoy the scenery! 

The road will take you through the forest and eventually near the coast. Keep an eye out for elk as they’re often spotted in this area.

After about 8 miles on Davison Road, you’ll find the parking area for Fern Canyon. There’s a small fee to park here so having some cash handy is a good idea.

From the parking area, it’s a short walk to the entrance of Fern Canyon. 

Follow the signs and the trail and soon you’ll be stepping into the lush, green world of the canyon.

Before you go, it’s a good idea to check the park’s website or call ahead to make sure Davison Road is open and passable, especially after heavy rain.

The National Park Service warns that Davidson Road isn’t suitable for large RVs or anything with a trailer.

They also warn that low-clearance vehicles often get stuck on the road.

How Was The Canyon Formed?

The canyon is nature’s own creation. Yep, Mother Nature made this place.

It was formed by the forces of water and time. The creek which runs through the canyon carved out the deep, narrow gorge over time.

This made it the perfect environment for ferns to thrive.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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