As soon as you enter Fern Canyon, you can immediately begin to see why Steven Speilberg chose it as one of the locations for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. I have to admit, I’ve never seen any movie in the Jurassic Park series and the fact that it was one of the filming locations had nothing to do with me wanting to visit it again. It was also a filming location for IMAX’s Dinosaurs Alive and BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs. I had been there one other time a couple of years ago and wasn’t thrilled with any of my images I got from that trip so I had to visit this remarkable place again when I decided to make a spur of the moment trip to the Redwoods over Memorial Day weekend.
Getting to Fern Canyon can be an adventure in and of itself. Begin by driving through Elk Meadow (an excellent spot for watching the elk graze) and traveling approximately 6 miles down a very scenic dirt road until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach Kiosk. Depending on the time of year, the road can be quite rough and motorhomes and trailers are not allowed. After paying the $8.00 day use entry fee (the California State Parks pass and the National Park Service passes are valid for entry fee), continue driving down the dirt road paralleling Gold Bluffs and the Pacific Ocean and crossing several small streams (easily passable by car) to reach the trail head parking lot.
Approximately 1/4 of a mile from the parking lot, you will cross a small foot bridge and begin your trek into the canyon on flat trail that is home to Home Creek. During the summer months, there are footbridges over sections of the creek to help you keep your feet dry. Though they weren’t in place yet this year, it is still possible to keep your feet dry if you are relatively nimble; or, you can wear sandals and walk through the water – a much better way to explore in my opinion.
As you make your way into the canyon, it’s not long before you are walking between 50 foot walls covered from top to bottom in eight different species of ferns, including five-fingered ferns, sword ferns, and lady ferns.
Around every bend, there is more wondrous beauty to behold. Vibrant shades of green greet you every step of the way. If you are lucky, and can get there relatively early, you can almost have the entire canyon to yourself.
Before long, the official trail veers up some stairs to the left climbing up to the top of the canyon and making it’s way through the forest back to the trail head. However, instead of following the “official” trail, I continued to make my way up the canyon until I reached the end before I turned around and made my way back down the canyon.
While this hike is really short – only a mile or so round trip – it provides something for everyone to enjoy from little kids to adults of all ages. It’s like taking a time machine back…to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Until the next adventure…