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A wonderful loop hike with great diversity.

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815' 248 m


32' 10 m


1,168' 356 m


1,167' 356 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (25°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


This eight-mile loop ranges through coastal plains and lush forest to end in Fern Canyon. It connects four trails, Coastal, West Ridge Trail, Friendship Ridge Trail, James Irvine Trail and Fern Canyon Loop Trail.

Need to Know

There is an $8 entrance fee to the Gold Bluffs Beach Area (as of June 2015).


This hike starts on the Coastal Trail where it passes through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The best place to access the Coastal Trail here is at the end of Davison Road. While the Coastal Trail passes between the beach and the road, there is not much parking unless you are camping at Gold Bluffs Beach campground.

This loop follows along the Coastal Trail as part of the Friendship Ridge Loop hike. During this section, you are not able to see the ocean. The trail follows a fairly straight path along the tree line and the prairie before you can reach the ocean. It is completely flat, and this section is very enjoyable. Along the way, you'll pass Gold Dust Waterfall as well as several other smaller waterfalls. I really liked this waterfall, probably because the rangers never told me about it when I checked in at the visitor center. It’s possible the ranger didn’t even know as many of them are seasonal part timers. I found this because I heard it. It is set back off the trail in a wooded area that is marked as Liermann Family Grove. It is a narrow stream of a waterfall and reminded me more of a tropical jungle. One down beside it, I was bit by more mosquitoes here than on my entire trip. As soon as I headed back onto the Coastal Trail, they were gone. This is only about 1.5 miles on the Coastal Trail from the Fern Canyon Trailhead at the end of Davison Road.

Turn right on the West Ridge Trail and follow for 1.9 miles until your reach the Friendship Ridge Trail. This section, from the Coastal Trail to the Friendship Ridge Trail is a tale of two different trails. The first part, when ascending from the Coastal Trail is overgrown with tall fern and bushes. It is also steep in this sections. However, once you are on the ridge, it is one of the most enjoyable hikes in the park. It is an easy trail that meanders along the ridge through Oregon White Oak trees. That section was one of my favorites. However, the only way to experience this is by doing a loop hike from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center which is 12.5 miles or from the Fern Canyon Trailhead.

The Friendship Ridge Trail is about 3 miles long and is usually done as part of a loop. The Friendship Ridge Trail is a connector trail between the West Ridge Trail and the James Irvine Trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It really has no views except that of the forest which is also pleasant to see. A positive note is that most of the trail is an easy downhill in this direction. Because it is over three miles, the gradual descent is easy on the knees. I took this trail from West Ridge to James Irvine. From there you can link up with the Fern Canyon Trail which is a highlight of Prairie Creek.

A short hike down the James Irvine Trail, and you'll enter Fern Canyon. Negotiate the water and log jam for amazing views of the fern covered walls.


Land Manager: NPS - Redwood

Shared By:

John Maurizi

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 6 votes


  4.5 from 6 votes
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in California


28 Views Last Month
1,809 Since Apr 28, 2017



Steep walls lined with lush ferns grace the Fern Canyon Loop Trail.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Looking up at giants
Apr 20, 2019 near Westhav…, CA
A herd of Roosevelt elk enjoying the day on the beach.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Coastal Redwoods camping.
Aug 7, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Dancing down the wonderful Fern Canyon Loop Trail makes for a great way to enjoy the moment.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Fern Gully? Nope, Fern Canyon.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA



Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 21, 2021
Scott S
To spur trail leading to big tree. 1mi
Jun 14, 2021
Nicholas Van Epp
Nov 10, 2020
Genzo Kaga
Bull Elk on trail turned us around. Huge rack!! 3.8mi — 2h 30m
Sep 28, 2020
k c
Did this with liane?
Jan 1, 2019
Karl W
Section of the trail at the outlet of Fern Canyon was closed due to 200 feet of the trail flooded - not marked when we did it counter-clockwise.
Apr 24, 2018
Chris Decristofaro
I had the trail to myself all day. The trail winds up and down through lovely redwood forest.
Nov 23, 2017
Amanda Joyce
last section of the trail was closed due to flooding and land slides. 8mi