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Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon, California, USA



hike, water-activities

Fern Canyon is a unique hiking experience through a creek with walls of ferns growing up the sides of the canyon.

Fern Canyon is really unique and neat because you get to hike through a 50-80 foot deep canyon that is sprouting verdant ferns growing out of its sides. A creek traverses the canyon where boards are set up in the busy summer months (June-September) to help you cross the water. However, I still recommend waterproof hiking shoes here because you will get your feet wet. Or, if it is warm enough, you can wear sandals that will get immersed in the water. Bring a pair of dry shoes for after the hike. It is a 1 mile loop trail that only has a 150 foot elevation gain. Our 2.5 year-old was able to do the hike herself with holding hands to avoid some of the deeper parts of the creek. Our 1 year-old went in the hiking backpack which is fine most of the way, but watch your clearance when traveling under a couple of the larger branches. Our girls enjoy throwing small rocks in the creek and watching them splash and make a ripple along the way. This is one of our family's favorite hikes of all time and we've done it multiple times with all three of our kids (baby, toddler and preschooler).

Due to Fern Canyon’s popularity, California State Parks, in conjunction with the National Park Service, will begin to require a free Day Use Permit to access both Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon’s Day-Use Parking area starting in 2022 from May 1st - September 30th. Permits will not be required from October 1st - April 30th. The day-use fee of $12 still applies aside from the permit and is payable by cash or check only, not credit card. Visitors with a current Gold Bluffs Beach Campground reservation do not need to apply for a permit. You can also avoid the $12 day-use fee by using an America the Beautiful Pass, or a California State Parks’ Annual or Poppy Pass. Permits are only available online and not at the visitor centers or park kiosks. So, plan ahead by getting your permit or plan to visit Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach in the off season. Permits can be reserved up until 11:59 pm (PST) the night before. Fern Canyon Trailhead will have 35 half-day permits (for 4 hours) starting at either 8am or 1pm daily. There will also be 20 reservable all day permits (8am-sunset) for Fern Canyon parking area. Gold Bluffs Beach will have 20 all-day permits (8 hours) starting at 8am until sunset as well. If you reserve a Gold Bluffs Beach Day-use permit, do not park at the Fern Canyon Trailhead. Permits are issued by the non-profit, Redwood Parks Conservancy. 

Fern Canyon is located off of U.S Hwy 101 and requires around 1 hour to hike. Be prepared to drive through 2 stream crossings and about 6 miles on a compact gravel and dirt road via Davison Road. RV’s over 24 feet and trailers are not permitted on Davison Road. Low clearance vehicles are also not advised. Roads may be closed due to current conditions such as flooding or downed logs. And, dogs are not permitted in Fern Canyon, but are permitted on leash at Gold Bluffs Beach. 


Hiking Water Activity Creek
Thoughtfully captured by:
Jessie O’Kane
I moved from Northern California to Oregon in 2021. I have three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1. I was an elementary school teacher before I became a full time adventuring mama. My husband and I are foodies and we live in the forest. We enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest.
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