Visiting Fern Canyon in Redwood National and State Park is worth it! This scenery, made famous in a scene of Jurassic Park. is otherworldly. Imagine walking through a narrow canyon where the walls are completely covered by luxuriant ferns and mosses and are dripping with moisture. Now that you’ve made it there, how do you photograph it?
Photography Tips for Fern Canyon
A tripod is a must in the canyon. To get the creek to look flowing you’ll need the steadiness of a tripod to allow for longer shutter speeds. Plus the canyon can be dark and I found I needed a longer shutter speed to capture the shadows. Best shot with a wide angle lens. I used my Tokina 11-16mm in the canyon. It allows you to capture the big picture. However, I could see another lens being fun in here to photograph close up scenery or macro images. I went for the big picture because I was so amazed by the look and feel of the place. Go with your gut on this one. Focus on what interests you. What are you looking to capture in the canyon? Do you want slow images of the water flowing? Do you want close up of the plants, bugs, etc.? I wouldn’t do anything telephoto in the canyon. But a good macro lens good be fun! Remember to take your time to compose your image and take in the scenery. I found it overwhelming at first. Don’t be afraid to go right up to the canyon walls. Look up close at the trees and leaves. You might find tiny wildflowers, bugs and neat lines that are all worth a photograph. Make sure to remember extra batteries and extra memory cards.
Did someone say elk?
Elk on the beach in California!??! Never seen that before. It was actually a surprise to see them there; a good surprise! I saw several females and one male. I didn’t bring my long telephoto lens along. Once I saw the elk at the beach I was bit disappointed in that. But then again I went for the fern canyon photography and not for the wildlife. Sometimes it’s just an added bonus to see wildlife.
Hiking Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon can be found near Gold Bluffs Beach in California. It is part of the Redwood National and State Parks. The trail through Fern canyon is about one mile and follows Home Creek as it courses through the forest. The modest stream has over the eons carved a deep (50 to 80 feet) canyon through the sedimentary soils. The vertical walls sprout an amazing variety of ferns (five different kinds) and other moisture-loving plants and mosses. Depending on the time of year, there is a constant drip-drip of water trickling down the canyon walls. Did I mention fern canyon is otherworldly? If it’s not super crowded, you will hear nothing but birds, the wind through the trees, insects, water dripping and more of nature. When I visited (early May), it was on the chilly side. I’d say maybe 60s, but cool in the canyon since there is little sun. Keep in mind you will be hiking through the creek. Wear water shoes (sandals work well) as you will be getting wet! I came prepared with sandals, but the water is cold and my toes were chilly. If I were to go back, I’d actually wear my neoprene booties that I use for snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving. If you don’t have those, that’s ok. Just keep in mind it can get chilly.
How to get there
Drive or hike in. Hiking will make a day trip of it. If you prefer to spend the weekend, there are a number of camping options right on the beach. However, camping will be either in your truck or a ten as no trailers are allowed on the road in! Driving into the park is a small adventure in itself. The road there is mostly unpaved, but suitable for 2-w/d cars. Keep in mind motorhomes and trailers are not allowed on this road for a good reason as the road can be narrow and has plenty of blind curves. Follow this spectacular scenic drive for 6 miles until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach kiosk. Pay the $8.00 day use fee (free with your National Parks or California State Park Pass or a receipt if you’ve stayed in a California state park within the last 24 hours). The final leg of the road traces the coast between the narrow coastal plains and bluffs. It provides access to beach camping. Expect 2 or 3 shallow creek crossings on the way into the canyon. Gold Bluffs Beach is designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. Hike about a 1/4 to 1/2 mile at most to get to the beginning of the canyon. Then hike as long or short as you like. Take your time through this magnificent scenery. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Alternatively, Fern Canyon can be reached by a moderate five-mile hike (one way) on the James Irvine Trail, beginning at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center.