Fern Canyon Trail

Russian Gulch State Park, California

Elevation Gain441ft
Trailhead Elevation29ft
Elevation Min/Max27/142ft
Elevation Start/End29/29ft

Fern Canyon Trail

Fern Canyon Trail is a hiking and biking trail in Mendocino County, California. It is within Russian Gulch State Park. It is 1.6 miles long and begins at 29 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 3.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 441 feet. Near the end of the trail is a bicycle parking. This trail connects with the following: Falls Loop Trail and North Trail.

Fern Canyon Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

101 Hikes in Northern California: Exploring Mountains, Valleys, and Seashore (Wilderness Press)
Matt Heid
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"With its gurgling alley of green in a verdant canyon, Van Damme State Park provides an easy sampling of the lush ecosystem found just inland from the coast. The highlight is Fern Canyon, a small gorge 400 feet deep that shelters Little River and a lush, regenerating redwood forest. A diminutive coastal river barely 5 miles long, Little River provides critical habitat for coho salmon, steelhead, and a variety of other wildlife. Logged during the late 19th century, the forest has since rebounded to impressive dimensions with only gigantic decaying stumps to remind hikers of the past."
Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast (Wilderness Press)
Mike White
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"Van Damme State Park was named for the son of a Flemish immigrant who prospered in the logging trade, moved to San Francisco to operate a ferry, and eventually relocated back to the stunning beauty of Little River. The 1,830-acre reserve harbors a rich ecological diversity, including coastal beach and headland, second-growth redwood forest, riparian zone, and, most unique of all, a pygmy forest. This 9-mile, semiloop trip samples this diversity following Little River through aptly named Fern Canyon before climbing into redwood uplands to a pocket of pygmy forest. The return portion descends into a serene canyon bearing Little River’s headwaters."
"This pleasant hike begins and ends at one of a small handful of publicly accessible pygmy forests in the state. From here it plunges down into a deep ravine clothed in mature second-growth redwoods to the headwaters of the Little River. After a stretch along the lush riparian streamside, the trail climbs steeply and returns to the trailhead via an old logging road, now closed to vehicle traffic."

Fern Canyon Trail Trip Reports

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Follow the Trail through a lush canyon. At the junction, I recommend that you take the Falls Loop Trail. It's the long way around but it tracks through an upland Redwood Forest. Wildflowers & Coast Rhododendron bloom in the spring. The Russian Gulch Falls are a good place to rest awhile. I also recommend a sojourn on the beach and a walk out to the coastal bluffs & the Devil's Punchbowl. The Highway 1 bridge is considered by many to be the most beautiful concrete arch bridge in California.
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this site only describes just the first three miles of a 24.7 mile hike that extends past the punta gorda lighthouse all the way to shelter cove. a one way coastal hike unmatched in solitude and pristine beauty in the king range national conservation area. shuttle service is available (go to lostcoasttrail.com ,and e-mail for chartered service) for the 1 hour and 45 minute drive from the BLM parking area at black sands beach in shelter cove to the mattole beach trailhead in petrolia to begin the hike south.
bring your watch and a trail map and tide book to calculate those high tide areas that can only be crossed at low tide!
south of shelter cove the trail continues through the sinkyone wilderness state park, and ends at usal beach in mendocino county.
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I rode this trail with the intent of bringing my daughter along on the "trail-a-bike". Later, it being easy enough to pedal with little elevation change, I went back to the campground and got my wife and son. The kids had a great time at the water fall near the end of the trail. We locked the bikes up and did a hike at the end of the trail which included a waterfall, a plateau of redwoods and a descent down to the trail origin (where the bikes were) through a fern canyon. The bike ride was o.k., but the 3 mile hike was worth the effort of dragging the family there.

Fern Canyon Trail Photos

Trail Information

Russian Gulch State Park
Nearby City
Russian Gulch State Park
Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible
Mendocino National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS 7.5-min. Mendocino and Mathison Peak
Local Maps

Trail Log