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James Irvine to Fern Canyon

  4.9 ( 19 ) Favorite


11.9 mile 19.1 kilometer loop


Ascent: 1,610' 491 m
Descent: -1,610' -491 m
High: 509' 155 m
Low: 10' 3 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Kristen Arendt

A truly spectacular hike through some of the most unforgettable areas in the park.

Kristen Arendt

Features River/Creek · Views

Winter floods periodically sweep through Fern Canyon, and seasonal bridges only exist in the summer.


This hike has it all—massive redwoods, a scenic stream, a fern-covered canyon straight from prehistoric times, and a chance to dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. If you have the time to spend a day on the trails, this hike is not to be missed.


From the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, head out on the James Irvine Trail which can be accessed from the Prairie Creek Trail to the north of the visitor center.

The James Irvine Trail is one of the quintessential redwood trails in the area, and offers visitors an unforgettable journey through an old-growth Redwood forest.

This moderate trail can be accessed at its southern end near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. The trail has a gentle climb for the first 1.5 miles, passing a junction with the Miners Ridge Trail on the left. Stay right to continue your hike.

After this, the trail meanders on a short half-mile descent, taking you nearer to Godwood Creek, and a more mellow section of trail that carries you through the majestic Redwood forests. You'll will be dwarfed by the massive trees, as the singletrack trail winds through the lush undergrowth.

The trail ends at the world-famous Fern Canyon and Home Creek. At the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, stay to the right to head along the top of the canyon until you come to the junction with the Coastal Trail. Take a left, and follow this trail until you pop out on the beach. This is the halfway point of your hike, and a great chance to take a break, have a snack, and dip your toes in the ocean before continuing on.

When you are ready to move on, retrace your steps along the Coastal Trail, this time taking the first junction you come to onto the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, and be prepared for a spectacular section of the hike through Fern Canyon.

The trail starts with a short, easy uphill trek before leveling off in the canyon as you hike along the streambed of Home Creek. There may be some trees along the way that you'll have to climb over or under.

This section of the trail is absolutely stunning, as you hike through an area straight out of prehistoric times. This large canyon is completely covered with ferns - dark, green sword ferns, velvety five-fingered ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Small sections of the trail are on a boardwalk, and dirt paths meander through this giant canyon.

The trail then climbs out of the canyon to a junction with the James Irvine Trail where you can retrace your steps to head back to the visitor center to finish your hike.

Flora & Fauna

Redwoods galore, banana slugs, and tiny mice. Surprisingly, the forest floor is a very silent and unpopulated with forest critters. You'll also see a variety of ferns along the way - sword ferns, five-fingered ferns, and lady ferns just to name a few.

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Sep 8, 2019
Beautiful fern canyon and nice beach at the end. Big redwoods and quiet forest on the way there.
Jul 29, 2019
Jack M
Because of the sunset, we only got two miles out 4mi
Jul 20, 2019
Bella Hurvitz
Amazing fern canyon 13mi
Jun 28, 2019
Florence Ferreira
Jun 26, 2019
Krystle Street
Jun 19, 2019
Trevor Kirkland
Fern canyon. Enough said. It's amazing go there best part of the park
May 22, 2019
Nick Coffaro
Jan 19, 2019
Jake Kiekenapp

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 19 votes


  4.9 from 19 votes
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in California


112 Views Last Month
3,389 Since Dec 22, 2016



The James Irvine Trail is such a beautiful, well-maintained trail.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
A male Roosevelt elk looks over his herd of lady elk.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Monkeying around on a fallen big boy has never been more fun.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
I'm as mighty as the great redwoods!
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
The last portion of trail on the way to Fern Canyon in Redwoods State Park.
Nov 22, 2015 near Westhav…, CA
A herd of Roosevelt elk enjoying the day on the beach.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA


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