Fern Canyon / Pygmy Forest (dayhike)

Trip Date: 9/12/2015

Location: Van Damme State Park

Permit/Pass: Day use - $8

Trail maps: parks.ca Brochure 

Directions: From the junction of California Highway 20 and Highway 1 in Fort Bragg drive 10.7 miles south to a left turn onto Park Rd. A few short yards brings you to the kiosk for entrance to the park. Continue on Park Rd. to the very end, where you'll find parking for the Fern Canyon trailhead. 

Synopsis: If you're in the area on a hot day, this would be a great trail to take for its cool and shade. The path follows Little River (more of a creek, actually), crossing it several times, then climbs to a unique spot - a forest of stunted trees and shrubs.  

Trail sequence: Fern Canyon Trail / Old Logging Rd. Trail / connector to Pygmy Forest / Pygmy Forest boardwalk / connector / Fern Canyon  

Type: Lasso loop

Distance: 8.6 miles

Elevation: Min. - 72', Max. - 646' 

Rating: Moderate-Difficult (factors: length)

Notes: The climb to the Pygmy Forest is about 450 feet over the relatively short distance of the Old Logging Rd. trail. It's not terribly steep, but you shouldn't be fooled into thinking the elevation gain is spread out over the length of the entire trip.

Track: Fern Canyon / Pygmy Forest - Van Damme SP


Turn by Turn:

  -- Head out on the trail on the north side of the restrooms. For the first couple of miles it winds lazily next to the creek and very gently gains some altitude.

  -- There are few places to go wrong here. Besides the lush scenery and the trickling water, then only distraction is a hike-in camp about a mile up the trail. Eventually you come to a junction with the Old Logging Rd. trail. Take the right fork and drop down on this trail as it first crosses the creek then begins to climb steadily.

  -- The trail curves around the west side of a hill, then levels out and heads southeast for three quarters of a mile or so, after which another fork is reached. Left (east) takes you onto the other end of the Fern Canyon trail, and continuing right to the south connects to the Pygmy Forest boardwalk trail. Take the trail to the Pygmy forest.

  -- After enjoying the boardwalk and exhibits at the Pygmy Forest return to the Old Logging Rd. connector, then take the right (east) turn onto Fern Canyon trail.

  -- The path descends to the north before turning back to the east and dropping down to the creek bottom. Here, you cross over the creek and turn back to the northwest. After another three quarters to a mile of hiking you close this part of the loop and begin the return trip along the outward path.

  -- Follow Fern Canyon trail back to the parking area.

Video: Youtube