James Irvin Trail

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This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
16.7 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
428 m
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James Irvin Trail

The James Irvin Trail boasts an unforgettable journey through a coastal primeval redwood forest. This enchanting adventure explores a quintessential redwood grove before opening to the Pacific Ocean and the famous Fern Canyon. This magical hike is well worth adding to your Redwoods National and State Parks itinerary.

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Route Description for James Irvin Trail

Immerse yourself in a sea of towering redwoods and lush vegetation along the James Irvin Trail. Boasting an unparalleled experience, this route offers picture-perfect scenery and a wonderful workout. Traveling into the dense woodlands, it is important to be mindful of wildlife. Roosevelt elk and black bears frequent in the area—and of the two, the Elk are commonly the most aggressive, so keep your distance! Incredibly scenic, this route attracts dozens of adventurers each day, so we encourage you to head out early to beat the crowds and secure a spot in the trailhead carpark.

The James Irvin Hike is a quintessential redwood grove trail with a little something extra. Reconnect with nature as you wander amongst the primeval forest lit by sunbeams and bounded by lush undergrowth. Notice the diversity of flora as you hike along the path lined with ferns, huckleberry bushes, wild mushrooms, and delicate violets. Unlike other redwood groves in the state, the James Irvin Trail guides adventurers to the famous Fern Canyon and the Gold Bluffs Beach—what more could you ask for? This magical nature walk affords anyone a good time. We love this hike, and we can guarantee you will too!

Setting out from the Prairie Creek Trailhead at the Visitors Center, the James Irvin Hike follows the Prairie Creek Trail before branching left onto the Nature Trail. This path will guide you over Godwood Creek to another trail junction. Here, veer right, and you will be diverted onto the James Irvin Trail. This route will follow along the drainage of Godwood Creek and into the old-growth forest. Keeping right at the next intersection, meandering amongst redwood, Sitka spruce, douglas fir, and western hemlock, you will be enchanted by the sights of the sunbeams piercing through trees.

Eventually, you will reach a branch with the Clintonia Trail, keep right, and the James Irvin Trail will begin to run parallel to Home Creek. Hiking through the corridor bounded by the towering redwoods, you will be led over several footbridges. The closer you get to the coast, the more dense and lush the vegetation will become. Passing a charming cascade, you will be guided up the gulch and past the Friendship Trailhead. At this point, the path will likely become busier as you near Fern Canyon. From the James Irvin Trail, you will be granted impressive views of the lush canyon draped by vibrant ferns, intersected by the calm creek.

Continue hiking, and the route will eventually open to the Pacific Ocean. Admire the scene of the ocean in the west, and in the east, you will be granted an impressive view of Fern Canyon in the southeast. Appreciate the sight of the famous corridor, then merge onto the Fern Canyon Trail, tracking south. This path will ultimately deliver you to the trailhead and parking lot at Gold Bluffs Beach. If time permits, explore the beach and dip your toes in the chilly waters. From here, retrace your footing along the path all the way back to the trailhead—unless you want to explore Fern Canyon first. Either way, reconnect with the James Irvin Trail and head back the way you came!

Frequently Asked Question

When is the James Irvin Trail open?

The James Irvin Trail is open and accessible year-round.

How long is the James Irvin Trail?

The James Irvin Trail is a 16.7 km out-and-back hike in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Where does the James Irvin Trail begin?

The James Irvin Trailhead and Car Park are located at the Prairie Creek Visitors Center off Newton B. Drury Parkway.

Insider Hints for James Irvin Trail

  • The parking lot is often full by noon, so arrive early to beat the crowds!
  • If the parking lot is full, there is plenty of parking for any-sized vehicle along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
  • If time permits, we urge you to explore Fern Canyon at the trail’s end
  • Do not go near, or disturb the Roosevelt Elk, they can be aggressive
  • The boardwalks can be slippery—so take your time
  • Dress in layers as the damp environment can be chilly
  • Explore Gold Bluffs Beach at the turnaround point

Getting to the James Irvin Trail Trailhead

Access the James Irvin Trail via the Prairie Creek Trailhead at the Prairie Creek Visitors Center off Newton B. Drury Parkway.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground


  • When to do


  • Pets allowed


  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type

    Out and back

James Irvin Trail Elevation Graph

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