Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, it takes a bit of work to get to the North Coast gem known as Fern Canyon, but it’s worth it. From Highway 101 at Orick, drive unpaved Davison Road 10 miles to this spectacular canyon, a hidden paradise of ferns lining a narrow gorge carved out by Home Creek. Some of the seven different types of ferns clinging to the steep cliffs are ancient species, with ancestry tracing back 325 million years. Living underneath their leafy shade are some eye-catching amphibians, including Pacific giant salamanders, which can measure nearly a foot in length, and northern red-legged frogs.
The trail follows a series of small footbridges (installed in summer) deep into the canyon. Lush, drooping ferns create hanging gardens, miniature waterfalls pour down rock faces, and moss wallpapers every surface. The walls grow taller and squeeze tighter as you travel.
Are you experiencing déjà vu? Steven Spielberg filmed a Jurassic Park II scene within this canyon. Every curve and turn leads to another Instagram-it-now (if there were reception) view. Far too soon, the trail curves left and ascends out of the canyon, then loops back to the parking lot. More than a few Fern Canyon hikers opt to retrace their steps instead of continuing on the loop—it’s just too hard to leave this special place.
Insider tips: It’s wet here. River sandals or waterproof boots come in handy. The fee to enter the park is $8 per car, and it’s best to have it in cash, because it’s not always possible to use a credit card.