Leafy Greens, Fern Canyon: One Day In The Redwoods CA
Adventuring through the Redwoods National and State Parks and have an extra day? Now’s your chance to squeeze in a go-see at somewhere very special. It’ll occupy you much of the day, and you can stay there for the night if you like ocean breezes. Where? Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Campground.
Grab your camping gear and fill your car with gas. Charge your camera and prime your adventuring spirit. Take all the ice and food you’ll need, since you’ll be driving off-grid.
This trip is not for the skittish (or trailers or low-slung sedans)…
Drop in to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center at the south end of the Redwoods Parks. Get a spiffy standard-issue National Park map (if you don’t have one yet) and verify directions to Fern Canyon.
Elk Prairie Campground nearby is gloomy and tight. Little privacy, nothing very special. So we’re going to go a little further on this expedition.
Drive south towards Orick. If luck is on your side, you may get to see the prolific elk herd as you wend your way down the highway. If the season is with you, they will be rutting.
Soon after, you will reach a right turn (towards the sea) labeled Davison Road. That’s where you want to go. It looks to be a hardtop road. You will soon be deceived.
Before you go to Fern Canyon
If you haven’t seen it yet, make time to visit Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Clear signage marks the turn off. Take the loop walk (perhaps 3/4 mile), and hop back into the car, and backtrack along Hwy 101 to find Davison Road.
Grit your teeth.
In no time, the short hardtop will soften to a dirt road of the washboard and pot-holed variety. You will be required to ford little rivulets hither and yon. Provided your springs are springy, you will survive.
By now parallel to the beach, you will come across a seemingly random pay-booth with ranger. Do the necessaries. You did bring your NPS Senior Pass, right?
Drive on. In about a mile, you will reach Gold Bluffs Beach Campground. Take in the obvious fact that Gold Bluffs is an exposed, beach-side campground with little vegetation, a poor choice if the weather is foul.
If you plan to camp there, scurry in and get your dibs on a spot. By no means mark your picnic table with any kind of food, or it will be swarmed by crows in your absence.
Lollygag over lunch and sally forth further along the dirt road past the campground. Keep your eyes open for elk settled in the beach grasses. You will reach a parking lot.
Put on shoes you don’t mind getting soaked through, along with your least favorite socks. If you have a trekking pole (one will be better than two) take it along. A little pack with a little pack towel (or dry washcloth) will be helpful.
Follow the obvious trail from the parking lot. You will soon come upon Fern Canyon. Marvel.
Gird yourself (as in, roll up your pant legs) to scramble along the canyon floor. You will be climbing over, along, and among logs, across trickles, puddles, and streams. This is not a conventional trail. Get dripped on and thoroughly damp. It will be magical.
Clamber back and head for your night’s lodging. Enjoy the beach, the sunset, and the showers (yes, there are showers!).
Plan your next adventure
Photo credits. Featured image and top…. Fern Canyon: Public Domain via NPS. Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Up into the redwoods: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Brian Garrett via Flickr. Elk: CC BY-ND 2.0 by TravelUSA via Flickr. Campground panel…Gold Bluffs, Elk invades the campground: CC BY 2.0 by David Fulmer via Flickr; Gold Bluffs Beach sign, Entrance kiosk: CC BY 2.0 by David Fulmer via Flickr. Gold Bluffs Sunset: CC BY 2.0 by SloopRiggedSkiff via Flickr.