Tucked along the coast of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, California dinosaurs roamed in 1997 — well, animatronic ones. Steven Spielberg utilized this hidden gem for multiple scenes in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and it doesn’t take long to wonder why. Walking through Fern Canyon is nothing short of entering a new universe, surrounded by 40 to 50 foot high walls covered entirely in five different species of ferns. As the wind sweeps through this narrow gorge, the entire canyon transforms into a symphony of rustling ferns harmonizing with the shallow Home Creek that runs the length of Fern Canyon.
It turns out, this emerald haven was a happy accident. Sculpted by waters from the coastal bluffs draining into the nearby Pacific Ocean. Although, some of the fern species that don the epic walls can be traced back 325 million years.
Waterproof shoes or your favorite beat up sneakers are highly recommended for this damp hike. The canyon is littered with logs and, in the summer months, foot bridges to cross the creek. If you’re looking for a little piece of Fern Canyon to take back home with you, please don’t disrupt the natural foliage, stop by The Bodega in Eureka. There you can pick up a handmade candle by the incredibly sweet and charming shop owner, who perfectly captures the enchanting scent of Fern Canyon in wax.
Like all magical places, getting to Fern Canyon requires a bit of work — but it’s absolutely worth it. From the scenic Highway 101, drive about two miles north of Orick to Davidson Road where you’ll have an amazing opportunity to gaze at majestic elk grazing in, the appropriately named, Elk Meadow. Follow this dirt road for six miles until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach kiosk to pay the reasonable $8 day use fee, be sure to have cash handy or your National Park service pass to enter for free. Once you’ve acquired your golden ticket, it’s another three mile drive to the parking lot and the start of the canyon is about a quarter mile from the trailhead. Prepare to be dazzled!