Gold Bluffs Beach to Fern Canyon, Coastal Trail - Gold Bluffs Beach Trailhead, Redwood National and State Parks, California
Gold Bluffs Beach to Fern Canyon - 3.5 miles
Coastal Trail - Gold Bluffs Beach Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.5 miles (distance will vary by route on road or beach)|
|Start-End Elevation:||0' - 25'|
|Elevation Change:||25' net elevation gain|
Gold Bluffs Beach to Fern Canyon - 3.5 Miles Round-Trip
The Coastal Trail runs nearly 70 uninterrupted miles along the Pacific Coast in Redwood National Park. It can be accessed from numerous points and varies from easy beach walking to steep inland intervals through coastal forests.
The 1.75 mile segment between Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon travels up pristine beaches framed by dunes, bluffs, creeks and wetlands.
This easy walk features a wide range of bio-diversity in a relatively short space, and connects two of the most (deservingly) popular destinations in the Park.
Elk congregate in grassy dunes between the beach and forest and are frequently seen. Whales may pass close to shore April-May on their migration from Baja to Alaska.
Herons, egrets and kingfishers are drawn to wetlands, while sandpipers, plovers and brown pelicans favor beaches and the waterline. Spring flowers bloom across the dunes and add color to this fun, interesting hike.
Gold Bluffs Beach is accessible by car and several hiking routes beginning at Prairie Creek Visitor Center and along Highway 101.
A Day-Use Fee is required to access Gold Bluffs Beach and the Fern Canyon Trailhead by car ($8). Park only in the day-use area - not the campground.
See rules and regulations + important driving information below. It's advisable to call ahead for road conditions and potential closures:
The hike north from Gold Bluffs to Fern Canyon is straightforward. Walk from day-use parking through the campground to the beach and turn north. These dunes buffer lagoons, wetlands and the outermost forest from tidal surges and strong winds.
Avoid trampling delicate coastal grass and brush, which provide essential food and habitat for birds and vital stability and structure to the dunes.
Gold Bluffs Beach is wide and obstacle-free, apart from seasonal creeks that may reach the ocean and must be crossed. At approximately 1.6 miles turn inland and look for paths that lead through a tall grass marsh to the Fern Canyon Trailhead (1.75 miles).
This short strip between beach and Fern Canyon Trailhead often requires getting wet, and may be impassable during the rainy season and early spring. Don't under-estimate the depth of water nor over-estimate the stability of land in the marsh.
From the trailhead you can follow a short path into Fern Canyon and hike the loop. Click here for details.
- N41 23.024 W124 04.144 — 0.0 miles : Gold Bluffs Beach Day Use Parking
- N41 23.373 W124 04.263 — .5 miles : Open beach travel
- N41 23.783 W124 04.227 — 1.0 miles : Open beach travel
- N41 24.068 W124 04.058 — 1.6 miles : Turn off beach and cross marsh
- N41 24.045 W124 03.929 — 1.75 miles : Fern Canyon Trailhead
Camping and Backpacking Information
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.
- There are 8 designated backcountry sites. Gravel bar camping is permitted along Redwood Creek. Click here for specific site details and maps.
- 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 Gold Bluffs Beach and The Coastal Trail.
- A Day-Use Fee is required to access Gold Bluffs Beach and the Fern Canyon Trailhead ($8).
Directions to Trailhead
The Gold Bluffs Beach Day-Use Trailhead is located on Davison Road, 7.6 miles from Highway 101 in Prairie Creek State Park.
From HWY 101, turn into the Elk Prairie Day Use Area and drive .4 miles to the start of the dirt road. Continue 7.2 miles to the trailhead. A pay station is located 3.2 miles from the start of the dirt road. Use self-service pay envelopes if no attendant is on duty.
Davison Road is a maintained graded dirt road, but rough with many potholes and susceptible to slides and floods. Call ahead for conditions. High clearance is strongly recommended.
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.
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