Big Tree Bonanza

Giant Redwood hikes at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park hike

Roosevelt elk, canyons draped in ferns and dripping with small waterfalls, oh … and the tallest trees on the entire planet! Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (located within Redwood National Park) has all the fixings for world-class hiking. For a truly remarkable ramble, hit the trail early and go on an 11-mile semi-loop hike through the park’s greatest hits (shorter options are available). Don’t be scared by the mileage: This hike is not strenuous as far as terrain … it just requires you to allot a day for it. And it's well worth your time!

Hiker looking at the tallest trees on the planet at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County

Hiker at Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County

Hiker on the James Irvine Trail among the tall trees at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County

You’ll start and finish on the James Irvine Trail. Hiking beside Godwood Creek and Home Creek, you are surrounded by mighty coastal redwoods nearly the entire time. Unlike some of the old-growth redwood parks in the Bay Area where you get a grove here and a grove there, the James Irvine Trail has miles of old-growth beauties the entire way … you simply can’t escape them. And you won’t want to! These behemoth trees soak in sun and mist with equal enthusiasm, so be sure to stop and look up every once in a while. Wayyy up.

At the hike’s halfway point you gain access to another park favorite: Fern Canyon. This canyon is so dramatic Steven Spielberg used it as a film location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. Fifty-foot walls of bright green ferns hang like emerald silk, glistening in tiny waterfalls trickling into the canyon’s riverbed.

Hike Fern Canyon Prairie Creek Redwoods

The canyon goes back about half a mile before you reach a network of giant fallen trees, tangled on the route. Use this as your turnaround point to rejoin the James Irvine Trail, or navigate around it and take a set of  stairs back up to James Irvine, which you'll take back to the trailhead.

Roosevelt Elk at Redwood National Park in Humboldt County

ROOSEVELT ELK BONUS: There are plenty of meadows in the area where you can pull over to view the magnificent wild Roosevelt elks.

This hike is a semi-loop of 11 miles. The parking lot to the trailhead is at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center just off US Hwy 101, along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Take the James Irvine Trail to Miner’s Ridge, then merge right on Clintonia Trail. Take this trail until the junction that connects back to James Irvine, and follow signage to Fern Canyon. Return via James Irvine. For a shorter 9-mile version, take only the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon and back. Be sure to pick up a map and get info at the trailhead visitor center. No dogs.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Afternoon on the Island

    What is it about tiny islands in the middle of lakes? There’s something that just draws you in. It’s even more fun when getting there is half the adventure because you have to reach it by canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or a ranger guided boat tour!

    View
  2. Camp and Kayak at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest

    Sleeper Hit

    It's all about the water, and the camping, at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, a High Sierra reservoir perfect for kayak explorations and pitching your tent with the lake in the background.

    View
  3. Hiker in the forest at Mount Sutro in San Francisco

    San Francisco's Middle Earth

    No need to travel to New Zealand to visit Middle Earth. San Francisco’s Mount Sutro Open Space is practically Hobbiton—a hidden “shire” in the middle of the city. Okay, maybe not quite as magical, but still an incredible place to take a hike in city limits.

    View
  4. Woman walking down the stairs overlooking the ocean on the Coastal Trail in San Francisco

    America's Best Urban Hike

    Many years ago we dubbed it the “Grand Walk” and said it was one of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West. We were wrong. This is the most scenic urban hike in America!

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Two people smiling for a selfie on Santa Cruz Island Channel Island National Park

    Island Ahoy!

    Take to the seas on a weekend adventure to remote Santa Cruz Island (the largest among Channel Islands National Park) and an idyllic campsite coupled with a rugged 8-mile (round-trip) trek to a hidden beach.

    View
  2. woman on rocks at Salt Point State Park Sonoma Coast

    Sweet and Salty

    Located on Highway 1 about 18 miles north of Jenner, Salt Point State Park is wild, scenic, and one of the most beautiful places to do some classic coastal camping.

    View
  3. Woman biking the Ventura to Ojai bike path in Ventura County

    Ojai There!

    If a substantive and super scenic bike ride is right in your wheelhouse, do the 30-mile (round-trip) Ventura-to-Ojai bike path that begins (and ends) near the Ventura shoreline, pit-stopping in delightful Ojai for food and drinks.

    View
  4. Masterpiece Marshland + Beers

    San Dieguito Lagoon is one of the biggest wetland habitats in America. Uncover the magical marshland masterpiece on a gentle 3-mile out-and-back urban hike with a pit stop at a brewery.

    View