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James Irvine to Fern Canyon



11.9 mile 19.1 kilometer loop
91% Runnable


Ascent: 1,610' 491 m
Descent: -1,610' -491 m
High: 509' 155 m
Low: 10' 3 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Kristen Arendt

A truly spectacular run through some of the most unforgettable areas in the park.

Kristen Arendt

Features River/Creek · Views

Winter floods periodically sweep through Fern Canyon, and seasonal bridges only exist in the summer.


This run has it all—massive redwoods, a scenic stream, a fern-covered canyon straight from prehistoric times, and a chance to dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. If you have the time to spend a day on the trails, this run is not to be missed.


From the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, head out on the James Irvine Trail which can be accessed from the Prairie Creek Trail to the north of the visitor center.

The James Irvine Trail is one of the quintessential redwood trails in the area, and offers visitors an unforgettable journey through an old-growth Redwood forest.

This moderate trail can be accessed at its southern end near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. The trail has a gentle climb for the first 1.5 miles, passing a junction with the Miners Ridge Trail on the left. Stay right to continue your run.

After this, the trail meanders on a short half-mile descent, taking you nearer to Godwood Creek, and a more mellow section of trail that carries you through the majestic Redwood forests. You'll will be dwarfed by the massive trees, as the singletrack trail winds through the lush undergrowth.

The trail ends at the world-famous Fern Canyon and Home Creek. At the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, stay to the right to head along the top of the canyon until you come to the junction with the Coastal Trail. Take a left, and follow this trail until you pop out on the beach. This is the halfway point of your run, and a great chance to take a break, have a snack, and dip your toes in the ocean before continuing on.

When you are ready to move on, retrace your steps along the Coastal Trail, this time taking the first junction you come to onto the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, and be prepared for a spectacular section of the run through Fern Canyon.

The trail starts with a short, easy uphill trek before leveling off in the canyon as you run along the streambed of Home Creek. There may be some trees along the way that you'll have to climb over or under.

This section of the trail is absolutely stunning, as you run through an area straight out of prehistoric times. This large canyon is completely covered with ferns - dark, green sword ferns, velvety five-fingered ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Small sections of the trail are on a boardwalk, and dirt paths meander through this giant canyon.

The trail then climbs out of the canyon to a junction with the James Irvine Trail where you can retrace your steps to head back to the visitor center to finish your run.

Flora & Fauna

Redwoods galore, banana slugs, and tiny mice. Surprisingly, the forest floor is a very silent and unpopulated with forest critters. You'll also see a variety of ferns along the way - sword ferns, five-fingered ferns, and lady ferns just to name a few.

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Jun 22, 2019
Jen Johnson
Stunning views and fun trail to run, loved the canyon (though it was crowded) and spending some time at the beach. — 4h 00m
Mar 16, 2019
Jake Ramsby
Dec 23, 2018
Run Phy
May 29, 2017

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 21 votes


  5.0 from 21 votes
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in California


61 Views Last Month
3,705 Since Dec 22, 2016



A male Roosevelt elk looks over his herd of lady elk.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Monkeying around on a fallen big boy has never been more fun.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
A herd of Roosevelt elk enjoying the day on the beach.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
The James Irvine Trail makes for a beautiful stroll meandering around the foot of numerous giants.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
Hey boy, what are you doing in the base of that massive old tree?!
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA
The famous banana slug of the redwoods made a few appearances.
Dec 21, 2016 near Westhav…, CA


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