California's Fern Canyon is Kind of Eerie and Totally Awesome.
As Alex and I traveled north along the west coast, journeying through what felt like never-ending curtains of giant sequoias and towering redwoods (and a major shortage of gas stations), we decided to make our next California road trip stop at the Redwoods State and National Park.
We knew we wanted to see elk and the popular Fern Canyon, but were nervous about the overcast that whispered rain above our heads after suddenly shifting from a perfect blue sky.
We took the chance, driving through the recommended route where herds of Roosevelt Elk are most often spotted. And eventually saw them through the bushes. I must admit ... I was freaking out.
We had to remember we were on a mission. To reach Fern Canyon, one of Humboldt County's gems and a filming spot for the classic "Jurassic Park" sequel, "The Lost World".
After a long, bumpy, winding dirt road, we pulled into the parking lot, put on our hiking shoes, and headed into the canyon. There were couples, families, and (obvious) outdoor enthusiasts there, so we weren't worried at all about the difficulty level... until we turned into the canyon and noticed everyone carefully walking across fallen trees.
The Short Hike Through Fern Canyon
We realized they were trying to avoid walking through the ankle-deep water, so we followed them. After my third log in, I realized it was harder walking across these slippery logs than just getting my feet wet (to be honest, I was just scared of slipping off the log and getting my whole body wet) so I took the chance with my waterproof hiking shoes (not boots) and walked through the water.
It worked out fine, initially, and people jokingly expressed their jealousy. Until it got deeper.
Then it sucked.
Cold, wet feet trekked this creepy canyon but soon enough I forgot about my "pains", quickly distracted by the walls of moss stretching up to 80 feet in height. Dripping ferns left a mist in the air and the canopy of leaves above us provided shade.
The farther we walked, the less people continued on. Families turned around and explorers with inadequate footwear gave up. Soon enough it was just us.
Faint sounds echoed from around each bend and I was sure that any moment would bring a hungry creature stopping by to say hello.
The canyon recently had a bad mudslide a few months before (I believe) and when we reached the very end, we noticed it was closed off (usually you can continue on to the rim of the canyon). Disappointed by the blockade, and stubborn, Alex tried to climb a little farther to see what was possible - much to my protest - but quickly gave in and realized it was safer to listen to the RULES and stay back (I love following the rules when it comes to nature. Sorry, not sorry.)
How to Access the Rim of Fern Canyon
You can access the rim of the canyon by turning around and exiting (or wading) from the trail you came in on. By the entrance of the canyon, there is a long set of stairs that will lead you to the rim. I don't recommend these stairs for anyone with balance issues, knee / leg trouble, or in need of wheelchair access.
You can hardly see the inside of the canyon from the rim (that'd require standing too close to the edge) but there are some spots where you can find a good view, near the blockade. The inside of the canyon is by far my favorite, though.