Fern Canyon is a surrealistic and amazing display of primal ferns growing in a narrow 50-foot-deep vertical walled canyon. The floor... more » is nearly all creek bed which helps provide a contrast of water, gravel, stumps and downed trunks.
All of the park staff I spoke to said that this walk was at the top of their list for places to visit at Prairie Creek SP. It's also considered one of the most amazing spots along the North Coast!
Fern Canyon was used for several scenes in the movie Jurassic Park 2: Lost Worlds (1997) and the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs (2000) for very good reason. Try and watch these before coming out, especially if you're bringing kids.
The rest of this short loop walk climbs out and along the slopes above the grotto through the surrounding forests.
Expect slow going in the canyon. At least 5 species of fern and dozens of other plant species create an overload of color, shape, and texture.
Add to the sensory mix a combination of light climbing over logs, ankle deep creek crossings, little animal surprises (amphibians and in one spot, millions of centipedes), a total lack of modern sounds (if it's not a busy day), birds, insect noises, the breeze through the trees...overall, it is an amazing experience.
Drive or hike in. Hiking will make a day trip of it or if you prefer to spend the weekend, there are a number of camping options,
Driving in to the park is a small adventure in itself. The road in is largely unpaved but is suitable for 2 w/d cars. These old dirt roads provide a far better visceral experience than paved streets in these forests. But be careful - the road can be narrow and has plenty of blind curves.
The final leg of the road traces the coast between the narrow coastal plains and bluffs. It provides access to beach camping and several additional trail heads. Expect 2 or 3 shallow creek crossings on the way in to the canyon.
The park is designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
The park's tree cover primarily consists of old-growth coast redwood, hemlock and Douglas fir. Sitka spruce and Red Alder provide additional forest cover.
Because of frequent coastal fogs, the forest understory vegetation can get very lush and dense. Tan oaks, cascara, maples and California bay can be found on edges and grassland spaces. Western azalea and rhododendron bloom in May and June and offer bright accents and pops of color to the dense green of the forest. less «