James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Redwood National and State Parks, California

James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon - 10.1 miles

Prairie Creek Visitor Center

Some of the world's largest redwoods are found along the James Irvine Trail

Some of the world's largest redwoods are found along the James Irvine Trail

Round-Trip Length: 10.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 165' - 187' (524' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +22' net elevation gain (+1,352' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon - 10.1 Miles Round-Trip

The James Irvine Trail runs 5.05 miles from Prairie Creek Visitor Center to the Fern Canyon Loop in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This stunning and well-traveled corridor is topped by a 300'+ canopy and some of the world's oldest redwoods.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Sitka spruce, red alder and various berries appear as you transition to a coastal forest ecosystem on the descent to Fern Canyon. These archetypal old growth forests also support Douglas fir, western hemlock, bigleaf maple and a diverse understory of vine maple, rhododendron, huckleberry and salal.

Grades are generally mild but numerous up-down sections accumulate and give it a more moderate rating. Connections with the Fern Canyon, West Ridge, Miners RidgeClintonia and Friendship Ridge trails enable hikers to create routes of varying length and difficulty.

Distance Note: Discrepancies between resources can be attributed in part to where The James Irvine Trail is considered to begin. This description measures the full distance from Prairie Creek VC to the Fern Canyon Loop junction:

The trail begins at Prairie Creek Visitor Center and crosses Prairie Creek on long wooden bridges. Look for spawning coho salmon in fall and winter. Stay on the main trail artery past connections for Zig Zag and West Ridge to the Miners Ridge - James Irvine Trail split (.82 miles : 420').

James Irvine climbs to a high point (524') before dropping steadily to a bridge across a low in the forest near Godwood Creek (2.2 miles : 305').

It rises back to the Clintonia Trail split (3.35 miles : 360'), then drops on a more rugged and potentially muddy path beside Home Creek to bridges at 3.6, 3.92, 4.12 and 4.7 miles to the Friendship Ridge Trail split (4.75 miles : 225'). 

Redwoods are replaced by more saline-tolerant hemlock and Sitka as you near the coast as bigleaf maple, salmonberry, huckleberry and salal claim the understory.

Travel remains level to the Fern Canyon Loop junction (5.05 miles : 230'). The loop adds only .6 miles, but requires getting wet in potentially swift water in the canyon. Ask about conditions before entering.

Fern Canyon Trailhead is about .6 miles from this point, though you still must cross Home Creek to reach it. Gold Bluffs Beach and the Coastal Trail can be accessed from Fern Canyon Trailhead.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N41 21.854 W124 01.376 — 0.0 miles : Prairie Creek Visitor Center Trailhead
  • N41 21.932 W124 01.438 — .22 miles : James Irvine Trail split
  • N41 22.186 W124 01.682 — .82 miles : James Irvine - Miners Trail split
  • N41 22.369 W124 01.974 — 1.3 miles : Steady climb through old growth redwood
  • N41 22.489 W124 02.156 — 1.8 miles : Near high point of trail, begin descent
  • N41 22.649 W124 02.231 — 2.2 miles : Cross bridge at low point in forest
  • N41 22.983 W124 02.507 — 2.7 miles : Steady climb
  • N41 23.274 W124 02.882 — 3.35 miles : Clintonia Trail split
  • N41 23.480 W124 03.020 — 3.6 miles : Cross bridge
  • N41 23.728 W124 03.167 — 3.92 miles : Cross bridge
  • N41 23.819 W124 03.245 — 4.12 miles : Cross bridge
  • N41 24.156 W124 03.282 — 4.7 miles : Cross bridge
  • N41 24.143 W124 03.334 — 4.75 miles : Friendship Ridge Trail split
  • N41 24.162 W124 03.579 — 5.05 miles : Fern Canyon Loop split
  • N41 24.229 W124 03.822 — 5.35 miles : Cross Home Creek in Fern Canyon
  • N41 24.045 W124 03.929 — 5.65 miles : Fern Canyon Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The James Irvine Trail follows a similar path used by miners in the mid 1800s to reach gold deposits on Gold Bluffs Beach. 
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park manages over 70 miles of interconnecting trails through diverse habitats including prairies, upland forests, old growth redwood forests, coastal forests and beaches.

Camping and Backpacking Information


There are 4 developed campgrounds in Redwood National and State Parks:

There's a $35 per-night fee to camp in developed campgrounds. Cabins at Elk Prairie and Jedediah Smith are $80 (winter) and $100 (summer) per night.

Reservations are strongly recommended from May - September in all campgrounds. Click links above to learn more about each campground and check availability through ReserveAmerica.com (1.800.444.7275).


  • Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Permits are free and issued in-person up to 24 hours in advance at the Hiouchi and Kuchel Visitor Centers.
  • Fires are permitted in the backcountry with potential seasonal and location-specific restrictions. 
  • Proper food storage is required (in provided lockers, bear canisters or by hanging). 
  • Overnight stays are limited to 5 consecutive days.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking and riding trails in Redwood National Park, including trails within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
  • There is no fee to enter Redwood National Park or access trails at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. 
  • Day-Use Fees apply at select State Park entrance stations within Redwood National Park, such as Gold Bluffs Beach ($8).

Directions to Trailhead

Prairie Creek State Park is located on Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway off Highway 101, approximately 50 miles north of Eureka, 5 miles north of Orick and 25 miles south of Crescent City.

The Prairie Creek Visitor Center is located on the southern end of the Parkway, 1.3 miles from Exit 753 on Highway 101. Follow signs from the exit to the visitor center and parking lot.

Contact Information

Redwood National and State Parks
1111 Second Steet
Crescent City, CA 95531

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
127011 Newton B Drury Parkway
Orick, CA 95555

Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center (Orick, CA)

Jedediah Smith Visitor Center (Hiouchi, CA)

Hiouchi Visitor Center (Hiouchi, CA)

Crescent City Information Center

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Beautiful trail with huge trees! The best part is getting down to Fern Canyon and coast, which is like a whole new experience in contrast to the forest. If busy (and apparently it often is), consider one of the alternative routes back to the visitor center."
K. Voss  -  Sacramento  -  Date Posted: October 3, 2017


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