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blue James Irvine to Fern Canyon

  4.9 ( 14 ) Favorite

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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°)


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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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May 22, 2019
Nick Coffaro
Jan 19, 2019
Jake Kiekenapp
Nov 10, 2018
Stephanie Elizabeth
Sep 21, 2018
Onur Aksu
Aug 29, 2018
Anastasia V
Jul 20, 2018
Su T Chen
Plus Miner’s and Clintonia Trails. 12mi
Jun 12, 2018
Serena Stoiantschewsky
Only hiked the first 1.5 or so miles from fern canyon but is a nice hike with pretty views
May 3, 2018
Josh B
Beautiful trail. Lots of giant redwoods. The fern canyon section is really neat. 11.9mi

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 14 votes


  4.9 from 14 votes
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