15 Amazing Things To Do In Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon is a hidden gem located within the Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. This enchanting destination offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a fantasy world of ferns and mosses that cover the walls of a stunning canyon.

In this blog post, we will explore the beauty of Fern Canyon and provide an overview of the activities and attractions that await visitors. So, grab your hiking boots and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in Fern Canyon!

1. Walk the Fern Canyon Loop Trail

If you’re planning to drive to Fern Canyon between May 15th and September 15th, there’s an important detail you need to know. During this time, you will need to apply for an online parking reservation for Gold Bluffs Beach / Fern Canyon. The reservation is free and must be obtained beforehand. This new system of timed entries has been put in place to protect the area and provide a safer and less crowded experience for summer visitors. You can read the official news release to learn more about the measures being taken.

You can choose between two options when hiking the trail. The first is a 1-mile loop with an elevation gain of 150 feet, offering a nice circular experience. The second option allows you to follow the bed of Home Creek and reach the steep, leafy walls of Fern Canyon within a quarter of a mile. This option involves a 30-foot elevation change and may require maneuvering through log jams resulting from winter floods.

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2. Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail

Located not far from Highway 101, Lady Bird Johnson Grove is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. This easy 1.5 mile (2.5 km) loop trail takes you through a mesmerizing mix of old-growth redwoods and other tall conifers. It has been a popular spot for decades, attracting families and individuals alike. However, it’s important to note that the trail is not officially accessible for those with a wheelchair due to a sloping hikers’ bridge.

To reach the grove, you’ll need to drive three miles (5 km) along Bald Hills Road. Keep in mind that this road is not recommended for RVs or trailers as it is narrow, windy, and has very few pull-outs or turn-around spots. Parking on Bald Hills Road itself is prohibited due to the risk of collisions with oncoming traffic. Additionally, the parking spots at Lady Bird Johnson Grove are too small for buses, recreational vehicles, and trailers.

During the summer, you can join daily ranger-led walks that start at the parking lot. Along the trail, you’ll find numbered interpretive posts, which provide valuable information about the area. While the printed version of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove tour is no longer available at the trailhead, you can download it from the NPS digital app.

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3. Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

Photo / Dave Van de Mark

The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is a breathtaking 10-mile (16 km) drive through the heart of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, California.

This scenic alternative to Highway 101 offers a remarkable experience as it winds through an old-growth redwood forest. The parkway is known for its wide, mostly straight road that gives visitors the opportunity to soak in the beauty of the Giant Coastal Redwoods.

Whether you’re driving, hiking, or biking, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway provides a captivating journey that showcases the majesty of nature. Don’t miss the chance to explore this remarkable 10-mile stretch and be surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of the redwood trees.

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4. Hike to the Tall Trees Grove

The Hike to The Tall Trees Grove is a half-day adventure that takes you to a celebrated grove within the Redwood National and State Parks. This hike is not for the faint of heart or those short on time, but it is definitely worth the effort. With a 4.5-mile round trip and an elevation change of 1,600 feet, it offers a challenging yet rewarding experience.

The trail has gained popularity among bloggers, international publications, and travel writers, which is why it attracts a lot of attention. However, if you’re looking for an easier alternative, there are several other trails in the redwood parks that lead to equally beautiful old-growth redwood groves.

One such alternative is the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, which is easier to access and less demanding on your knees and heart. So, if you’re up for an adventure and want to see some magnificent redwood trees, the Hike to the Tall Trees Grove is definitely worth considering. Just remember to get your free online permit and come prepared with food, water, sturdy shoes, raingear, and a flashlight.

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5. Check out The Prairie Creek Visitor Center

The Prairie Creek Visitor Center is located in the heart of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. As the largest visitor center in Redwood National and State Parks, it offers numerous exhibits and a video on redwood ecology.

It is a great starting point for your adventures in the park, providing essential information, maps, and guides. The center is staffed by knowledgeable individuals who can answer any questions you may have and help you make the most of your visit.

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6. Visit The Crescent Beach Overlook

Located just three miles south of Crescent City, California, the Crescent Beach Overlook is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history enthusiasts. Offering a high scenic view of Crescent City’s beaches and harbor, this overlook provides a breathtaking vista of miles of beach and picturesque jagged off-shore sea stacks.

On clear days, visitors can also capture incredible sunset photos from this vantage point. With parking available for two vehicles, a short paved trail leads to an overlook platform and access to three picnic tables where you can enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the stunning views. Along the way, you’ll come across two interpretive signs that provide valuable information about the area’s rich history and geology.

For those wanting to explore more, the end of Enderts Beach Road is just a few hundred feet away, offering additional parking, an accessible vault toilet, and serving as the trailhead for the “Last Chance Section” of the California Coastal Trail. It’s worth noting that Crescent Beach is not just a scenic spot; it holds significant cultural importance as well.

It is part of the traditional lands and waters of the Tolowa people, who have long relied on its resources for sustenance and cultural practices. The harbor at Crescent City also plays a vital role in the community, providing industry and employment to those dependent on the bounties of the Pacific Ocean.

So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful spot to take in the beauty of Crescent City, make sure to visit the Crescent Beach Overlook. Don’t forget to download the official NPS app before you go to enhance your experience.

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7. Stroll to the Big Tree Wayside

When visiting the Big Tree Wayside in Prairie Creek State Park, you’re in for a treat with a stroll through magnificent old-growth redwood trees. Located just off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, this easy walk is only about 200 yards from the parking area. It’s the perfect spot for visitors, tour groups, or charter buses that have limited time to experience the wonders of these towering giants. At the site, you’ll find a viewing platform and interpretive signage surrounding the “Big Tree” where you can learn more about these majestic beings.

Limited parking is available for RVs and trailers, and you’ll also find vault toilets located at the parking area for convenience. For those interested in delving deeper into the redwood forest, the Big Tree Wayside offers other short walks such as the 15-minute “Circle Trail” that are worth exploring.

Keep in mind that there may be entrance fees, so it’s advisable to check the Fees & Passes information beforehand. The parking for this site is towards the southern end of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, approximately half a mile north of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.

If you’re planning a visit during the winter months, be prepared for rainy and wet weather. However, don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm as the paved trail to the “Big Tree” is four to five feet wide and level, ensuring an enjoyable walk for all.

To enhance your experience, it’s recommended to download the official NPS app before your visit. It provides detailed trail information and even offers audio boxes located at the trailhead, where you can listen to stories from Yurok elders about the significance of redwood trees. So, lace up your walking shoes and prepare to be awed by the beauty and grandeur of the Big Tree Wayside.

8. Visit Humboldt Lagoons State Park

Humboldt Lagoons State Park ©2010, California State Parks Photo by Brian Baer

Humboldt Lagoons State Park is a beautiful coastal park located on the land of the Ner’-er-herh/Coastal Yurok People. With its sandy shores and forested areas, the park offers a unique view of the clash between the ocean and the land. As part of the largest lagoon system in the United States, the park is like a string of pearls that showcases the ongoing natural processes.

The park is home to Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, Freshwater Lagoon, and the transformed marshland of Dry Lagoon. These diverse habitats provide a haven for wildlife, including whales, elk, trout, salmon, pelicans, and woodpeckers. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as hiking, paddling, swimming, and fishing.

There is even a campground nestled in the forest, accessible by paddle or hike. The park also boasts the stunning Azalea Nature Trail, which bursts with colorful blooms in May or early June. Don’t forget to visit the Stone Lagoons Visitor Center, housed in a former motel-restaurant, to learn more about the park’s fascinating history and the marshland’s restoration.

Whether you’re exploring the lagoons, bird watching, or whale watching, Humboldt Lagoons State Park offers a truly memorable experience in the heart of California’s stunning coastal region.

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9. Tour-Through Tree (Klamath)

The Tour-Thru Tree in Klamath, California is a fascinating attraction that offers a unique experience for visitors. Located 21 miles south of Crescent City, this iconic tree was spared during a logging operation in 1967. In 1976, retired Air Force Major Harold A. Del Ponte hired his nephews to carve a tunnel through the trunk of Tour-Thru Tree, making it large enough for automobiles to pass through. With a width of 7.33 feet and a height of 9.50 feet, this impressive tunnel was completed in just under two days using a 7-foot-long chainsaw.

Today, Tour-Thru Tree is one of the most popular drive-through redwoods in the area, with around 60,000 vehicles visiting annually. It offers a unique experience for both locals and tourists alike. While there are other drive-through redwoods in the vicinity, Tour-Thru Tree stands out as it can accommodate larger vehicles. The attraction also features picnic tables, a unique redwood restroom, a gift shop, and even a field across the street where visitors can find a mob of emus.

Open year-round, Tour-Thru Tree Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. If you’re planning a trip, it’s advisable to call 707-482-5971 to inquire about seasonal hours, entrance fees, and other relevant information. To get there, take Exit 769 Klamath/Terwer Valley from U.S. Highway 101 and drive east for 0.2 miles on California State Route 169 (Klamath Glen Road). Turn left at the Tour-Thru Tree Park entrance and continue east for 800 feet to reach the tree.

Before your visit, you can also explore the location of Tour-Thru Tree online and take virtual tours through stunning panoramas. Additionally, you can find pictures of Tour-Thru Tree from different angles to get a sneak peek of this incredible attraction. So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a unique experience, make sure to include the Tour-Thru Tree in your itinerary when visiting Klamath, California.

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10. Visit Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is not just known for its towering trees, but also for the diverse landscapes it protects. In addition to the tallest trees on Earth, the park safeguards vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild rivers, and 40 miles of rugged coastline. The beauty and abundance of this verdant landscape have attracted people since ancient times.

Taking on the important task of managing and restoring these lands are the National Park Service and California State Parks. Their goal is to provide inspiration, enjoyment, and education to all who visit the park. Whether you’re interested in exploring the majestic Tall Trees Grove, wandering through the enchanting Fern Canyon, attending special events, or even engaging in backcountry camping, Redwood National Park offers a multitude of experiences.

Leashed pets are also welcome in designated areas, so you can bring your furry friends along to enjoy the beauty of the park. It’s important to stay informed about any closures, delays, trail information, and fire updates, which can be found on the park’s website. If you’re planning to camp, you have several options to choose from, including four developed campgrounds and seven backcountry campsites. Before your visit, be sure to download the official NPS app to enhance your experience.

Redwood National Park truly offers so much more than just the tallest trees – it’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of nature and create unforgettable memories.

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11. Check Out The Klamath River Overlook

The Klamath River Overlook is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Located northwest of Klamath, this scenic spot offers breathtaking views of the mouth of the Klamath River as it meets the majestic Pacific Ocean.

As you take in the panoramic vista, make sure to bring your binoculars, because the overlook is a paradise for bird watching and marine life observation. Throughout the year, you can spot a diverse array of bird species and marvel at the enchanting marine creatures that call this area home. During the spring and fall, you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales. Keep an eye out for seals resting on the sandspit at the river’s mouth, as they are often seen and heard in the area.

The Klamath River Overlook provides a serene setting to enjoy a picnic, with available picnic tables. If luck is on your side and there’s no coastal fog, you’ll be treated to an incredible sunset view. Additionally, you can explore the rich history of the region through informative interpretive signs. These signs delve into the human history and wildlife of the area, highlighting how the mouth of the Klamath River has been a significant source of food, trade, and cultural traditions for the Northern California people, such as the Yurok. This sacred place continues to hold great importance to this day.

For those seeking more adventure, the Klamath River Overlook is also the starting point of the “Klamath Section” of the California Coastal Trail. This trail leads north to the Lagoon Creek Day Use Area, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in the beauty of the coast. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to get closer to the crashing waves, there’s a steep trail that leads to a fantastic ocean overlook below, approximately half a mile from the site.

Please note that larger recreational vehicles or trailers are not suitable for this location. Before visiting, consider downloading the official NPS app to enhance your experience and ensure you don’t miss any important details or updates. Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply seeking tranquility and beauty, the Klamath River Overlook promises an unforgettable experience.

12. Redwood Creek Overlook

The Redwood Creek Overlook is a truly breathtaking spot in the heart of nature. Located east of Orick on the Bald Hills Road, it offers visitors a chance to indulge in the beauty of habitat restoration while taking in the gorgeous views. This unique location provides an expansive view of thousands of acres of old-growth redwood forest.

From here, you can witness a picturesque sight of the old-growth forest, the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, stunning sunsets, and even a glimpse of the twinkling stars at night. However, it’s essential to check the weather beforehand, as fog and clouds occasionally obstruct the view. One of the standout features of this overlook is the opportunity to delve into the area’s logging history.

As you gaze down into the Redwood Creek valley, you’ll notice the stark contrast between the dark green old-growth redwood forest and the lighter green secondary-growth forests. Interpretive signs throughout the area highlight these visual differences, display fascinating photos of past logging activities, and shed light on the impacts of 20th-century industrial logging in the region.

Additionally, these exhibits touch on the significant restoration efforts that have been taking place in the Parks since the late 1970s. For an enhanced experience, make sure to download the official NPS app before your visit.

13. Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center

The Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, located on a beach in Orick, California, is the southernmost visitor center in the Redwood National and State Parks. It is a comprehensive facility that offers exhibits about Yurok culture, art, history, and of course, the majestic redwood trees.

From the moment you step inside, the rangers are there to greet you with their expertise and eagerness to assist. It is the perfect starting point for your trip, providing you with all the necessary information and resources you need to make the most out of your visit. The center is conveniently located near the southern end of the park, just a few miles south (west) of Orick on U.S. Highway 101.

With its informative displays, friendly staff, and prime location, the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center is a must-visit spot for anyone planning to explore the Redwood National and State Parks.

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14. World War II Radar Station: B-71

The World War II Radar Station: B-71, located in what is now Redwood National Park, is a fascinating piece of history that played a crucial role in early-warning radar defense during World War II. Disguised as a farm, this rare surviving radar station was part of a network of 72 proposed stations, with 65 actually built, stretching from the Canadian border into Mexico.

It was strategically built as the northernmost California station on the Pacific Coast. The radar station consisted of three buildings: a power building disguised as a farmhouse, an operations building disguised as a barn, and a two-stall privy.

The station was manned by members of the Army Air Corps and required a crew of about 35 men to cover 24-hour shifts. The radar station’s purpose was to provide early warning of potential threats along the coast, and it remained operational until the end of World War II.

Today, despite being abandoned for many years, the radar station stands as one of the few remaining radar stations in the United States and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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15. Corkscrew Tree

The Corkscrew Tree, located near the community of Orick, is a fascinating natural wonder that captures the imagination of visitors. It is known as a cathedral tree or fairy ring, characterized by its intertwining trunks that create a mesmerizing spiral shape. The National Park Service believes that the intricate formation of the Corkscrew Tree is the result of several coast redwoods growing around a central tree, possibly of a different species, that eventually decayed over time. The intertwining trunks have withstood the test of time and the forces of nature, including powerful storms that have buffeted the area.

To reach Corkscrew Tree, you can take exit 753 Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick. From there, drive north on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway for 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) until you spot the tree on your left. Upon arrival, a short hike of 400 feet (122 meters) northwest from the designated area will bring you to this captivating natural wonder.

For those interested in exploring Corkscrew Tree from the comfort of your own home, a virtual tour is available, allowing you to experience its grandeur from any location. The panoramic views offered by this virtual tour provide a unique perspective of the tree’s fascinating structure.

While nothing compares to witnessing the Corkscrew Tree in person, photographs taken from different angles offer a glimpse into its awe-inspiring beauty. These pictures showcase the remarkable intertwining trunks and illustrate the remarkable resilience of nature.

Whether you’re planning a visit to the Corkscrew Tree or simply appreciating it from afar, it serves as a reminder of the wonders that exist within our natural world. Its unique shape, formed over time, is a testament to the power and beauty of nature’s creations.

Safety Tips and Guidelines

Important Information for Visitors

When visiting Fern Canyon, it’s important to be aware of certain safety guidelines and information to ensure a pleasant visit. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  1. Cell Service: There is no cell service in the area, so it’s important to download maps or any necessary information beforehand.
  2. Elk Encounters: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is known for its wild elk herds. It’s important to keep a safe distance and never approach or disturb them.
  3. Road Conditions: The road to Fern Canyon can be challenging, with narrow and bumpy sections. Take caution while driving and be prepared for blind turns and flooded areas.
  4. Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to enter the park is $8, payable in cash only. National Park Pass holders can enter for free.

Safety Tips and Guidelines for a Pleasant Visit

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Fern Canyon, here are some safety tips and guidelines to follow:

  1. Visitor Center: Stop by the visitor center to pick up a map and get updates from the rangers. They can provide important information about wildlife sightings, weather conditions, and any potential hazards.
  2. Honk on Curves: Due to narrow roads and blind turns, it’s recommended to honk on curves to alert other drivers of your presence.
  3. Road Conditions: Be prepared for rugged and hazardous road conditions, including potholes, cracks, and flooded areas. Check with the park rangers about the road conditions before driving in.
  4. Proper Attire: Wear appropriate footwear, such as rain boots, as you may have to walk through water during the hike. Dress in layers as the temperatures can be cooler, especially in the mornings.
  5. Respect Nature: Avoid leaving any trace behind and follow park guidelines for wildlife protection. Do not approach or feed any animals you encounter.
  6. Best Time to Visit: Early winter mornings offer the best sunlight and fewer crowds. The winter months also provide clearer views compared to the foggy summer season.

By following these safety tips and guidelines, visitors can have a memorable and safe experience exploring Fern Canyon.


IX. Conclusion

In conclusion, Fern Canyon is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventurers. With its stunning fern-covered walls, pristine creeks, and beautiful hiking trails, it offers a unique experience in the heart of the California coast. Whether you are interested in exploring the surreal beauty of the canyon, discovering the filming locations of famous movies, or simply immersing yourself in the ancient redwood forests, Fern Canyon has something for everyone.

Making the Most of Your Visit to Fern Canyon

To make the most of your visit to Fern Canyon, here are some tips and recommendations:

  1. Plan your trip ahead: Be sure to check the road conditions and availability of footbridges before heading to Fern Canyon. It is also recommended to make a reservation during the busy season to secure your spot.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear: As the trail involves walking through creek beds and potentially ankle-deep water, it is advisable to wear waterproof boots or shoes with good traction. Bringing an extra pair of dry shoes and socks is also a good idea.
  3. Enjoy the scenic beauty: Take your time to appreciate the stunning fern-covered walls and the lush greenery surrounding you. Capture the magical moments with your camera and soak in the peaceful atmosphere.
  4. Stay safe and respectful: Keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter, including the Roosevelt Elk that frequent the area. Follow the park rules and regulations, and leave no trace behind to preserve the natural beauty of Fern Canyon.
  5. Explore nearby attractions: Consider extending your trip and exploring other attractions in the Redwood National and State Parks, such as the Tall Trees Grove or nearby coastal areas. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and immersing yourself in the breathtaking scenery.

Key Highlights and Recommendations

Here are some key highlights and recommendations for your visit to Fern Canyon:

  • Don’t miss the stunning fern-covered walls and the unique atmosphere that Fern Canyon offers. The short hike through the canyon is a must-do experience.
  • If you are a fan of movies, you’ll be delighted to visit the filming locations of famous movies like Jurassic Park and Star Wars.
  • Take some time to explore the surrounding redwood forests and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Consider hiking the nearby trails, such as the Tall Trees Grove Trail, for a more immersive experience.
  • Plan your visit during the less crowded times or arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds and fully enjoy the beauty of Fern Canyon.
  • Consider staying overnight in one of the nearby campgrounds or accommodations to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

Fern Canyon is a true gem on the California coast, offering a unique and enchanting experience for nature enthusiasts. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this magical place and create unforgettable memories.

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