Start this trail at the Van Damme State Park parking area which is located at the end of a campground. Fern Canyon Scenic Trail (name according to park map) is a dirt road where motor vehicles aren't permitted. I found this portion to be very enjoyable and easy running, as the road follows a stream.
This section is especially scenic when the banks are filled with lush ferns. There are about six picturesque bridge crossings where it is pleasant to view the stream that passes below. This first part of the trail is 2.5 miles long and relatively flat. It ends where two trails split to create a loop.