Redwood can be an overwhelming and confusing park with state parks mixed in with different national park districts. I’ve been to a couple different areas and thus far Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is my favorite. First highlight was the camping. One of the things that sets Redwood apart from the other big tree parks in the Pacific Northwest is the way the trees come right up to the beach. At Prairie Creek you can camp at a beach campground on the edge of the forest that also has the luxury of running water and showers: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground. Access is on a narrow, winding dirt road which I would not recommend doing in a prius, but in a campervan we were totally fine. Although if it was muddy it would probably have been a challenge.
Past the campground is one of the most well known hikes in Redwood, the Fern Canyon loop. It’s only 1.5 miles, but we created a larger loop (8 miles) that encapsulates the majestic forests, the fern canyon and the beach. And as a bonus you don’t have to drive out of the campground because the trailheads are all right there.
We headed up the Miners Ridge Trail through massive redwoods, then turned left onto the Clintonia Trail to cut across to the James Irvine Trail which took us to the end of the Fern Canyon lollipop trail and we headed into the canyon. I don’t know what I expected but it is truly a fern canyon and a super fun scramble through a creek bed that spat us out into a herd of elk peacefully grazing next to a sign warning us of the aggressive elk. After a long detour around the elk we came out to the end of the Fern Canyon Trail and took the Coastal Trail back to the campground.