Gold Dust Falls and the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park / Redwoods National Park / Orick, California, USA

About Gold Dust Falls and the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 3.6 miles round-trip (all waterfalls)
Suggested Time: 90-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-11-21
Date last visited: 2020-11-21

Waterfall Latitude: 41.42202
Waterfall Longitude: -124.0604

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Gold Dust Falls and the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls comprised a trio of thin-but-tall falls along a quiet section of the Coastal Trail (also called the Davidson Trail) further to the north of Fern Canyon.

Technically, only the second of the three waterfalls was formally named Gold Dust Falls, which was apparently an acknowledgment of a short-lived 1850s gold rush when prospectors found such dust in the sand.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_331_11212020 - One of the streaks where Fern Canyon Waterfalls would flow into the fern-covered canyon itself
One of the streaks where Fern Canyon Waterfalls would flow into the fern-covered canyon itself

However, that rush ended almost as soon as it began because it turned out to be too much trouble to gain what little precious metal was available here.

Anyways, while it seemed like the vast majority of visitors only hiked to Fern Canyon, I was pretty much alone on my hike to the Gold Dust Falls.

In fact, I only encountered a few mountain bikers when I was almost done with my waterfalling and started to head back.

Perhaps a bit more thrilling (and potentially dangerous) was when I encountered a herd of elk that chose to graze right on the Davidson Trail.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_249_11212020 - This was the herd of Roosevelt Elk that grazed right beside the Davidson Trail near the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls
This was the herd of Roosevelt Elk that grazed right beside the Davidson Trail near the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls

After a fairly lengthy standoff (it probably lasted about 10-15 minutes but it felt longer), I ultimately had to maneuver around them in a wide berth through tall grass.

Hiking to the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls

The first quarter-mile of the hike began from the end of the Davidson Road (see directions below).

If Squashan Creek happened to be running high or the erosion of Davidson Road was too severe, then it wouldn’t be safe for low-clearance 2wd passenger vehicles to attempt to cross the creek.

Thus, that would extend the hike by another 1.2 miles in each direction.

Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_036_iPhone_11212020 - About to pass this couple that chose to walk the remaining 1.2 miles along the unpaved Davidson Road beyond the Squashan Creek crossing
About to pass this couple that chose to walk the remaining 1.2 miles along the unpaved Davidson Road beyond the Squashan Creek crossing

Anyways, that first quarter-mile stretch was pretty straightforward as it eventually reached the mouth of Fern Canyon.

However, instead of going upstream into Fern Canyon, I then crossed the plank bridge over Home Creek (the stream responsible for carving out Fern Canyon), and then I kept left to avoid going up the steps to the James Irvine Trail.

Next, I had to follow some use-trails that skirted alongside other parts of Home Creek while crossing it in others.

It was a bit muddy and had stream crossings of similar difficulty as that within Fern Canyon (especially without proper waterproof shoes or boots).

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_198_11212020 - The Coastal Trail or Davidson Trail crossing a bog that took in water from both Home Creek (where Fern Canyon was) as well as Boat Creek further to the north
The Coastal Trail or Davidson Trail crossing a bog that took in water from both Home Creek (where Fern Canyon was) as well as Boat Creek further to the north

Anyways, because both Home Creek and Boat Creek crossed the Coastal Trail or Davidson Trail in this general area, I can envision some parts of the trail being lost if you happen to not be an experienced hiker (especially with the lack of signs here).

But eventually after getting across this tricky boggy part, the Coastal Trail then continued along a flat and obvious path.

This happened just as the terrain opened up and revealed bluffs on the inland side and tall grass with hints of the crashing waves of the ocean on the other side.

The semi-open and grassy stretch of the Davidson Trail persisted for about the next mile before the trail started to veer into a grove of trees accompanied with the sound of falling water.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_222_11212020 - The Davidson Trail leaving the bog and entering a windswept grassy coastal savannah that was pretty flat and easy while dominating the majority of the hike to the Gold Dust Falls
The Davidson Trail leaving the bog and entering a windswept grassy coastal savannah that was pretty flat and easy while dominating the majority of the hike to the Gold Dust Falls

This was where I encountered a herd of elk, which were probably grazing and getting sips from fresh water from the outflow of what turned out to be the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls.

Experiencing the Gold Dust Falls and the rest of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls

I’d imagine that the thicker vegetation and grove of trees also benefitted from the rather unique ecosystem when you mix freshwater with the windswept coastal savannah that I’d been hiking through to this point.

I spotted the waterfall from the Davidson Trail within the vegetation, but I also noticed some use-trails leading me closer to the waterfall’s base, where I finally got some clean looks at it.

After having my fill of this tall and thin waterfall, I then continued further up the Coastal Trail / Davidson Trail for another 0.2-mile before it veered into another grove of trees and ferns.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_274_11212020 - Closeup look at the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls
Closeup look at the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls

Eventually, I heard more sounds of falling water here I then started to glimpse the second of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls.

This particular waterfall was upstream from the Davidson Trail near a rest bench, and it seemed to be slightly taller and more voluminous as that first waterfall as well.

Given this infrastructure, I believe that this second waterfall was the officially named Gold Dust Falls though I didn’t see any signage nor other indications of its official name.

Nevertheless, after scrambling upstream on some use-trails from the rest bench, I then stood in front of the Gold Dust Falls where I finally got some clean looks at it.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_303_11212020 - Context of the rest bench along the Coastal Trail with a partial view of Gold Dust Falls behind it
Context of the rest bench along the Coastal Trail with a partial view of Gold Dust Falls behind it

Even though this waterfall’s context and size could be better appreciated from further back on the Coastal Trail, there were too many trees in the way to really appreciate it from there.

Finally, while it was tempting to return back to the trailhead from here, there was still one last waterfall to visit.

Just a little over a 100 yards to the north of the Gold Dust Falls along the Davidson Trail, it entered yet another vegetated grove where I once again heard the sounds of falling water.

Sure enough, I encountered the third and last of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls here, and there was another use-trail leading me closer to the base of its thin drop.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_381_11212020 - Looking up at the third and last of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls before heading back along the Coastal Trail to the end of the Davidson Road
Looking up at the third and last of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls before heading back along the Coastal Trail to the end of the Davidson Road

Of the three waterfalls that I saw during my visit, this one had the lightest flow, but considering that I was here in late November, I found it exceeded my expectations that it even flowed this late in the year in the first place!

After having my fill of this waterfall, I then returned back to the trailhead at Davidson Road, and overall, I wound up spending 2.5 hours on this 3.6-mile round-trip hike.

Of course, I did take a lot of time figuring out how to get around the elk herd as well as spending lots of time at each of the waterfalls so the actual moving time could be significantly less than this.

Experiencing Gold Bluffs Beach

When I returned to the trailhead at the end of Davidson Road, I rejoined my wife and daughter so we could spend some time at Gold Bluffs Beach.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_468_11212020 - Enjoying the pristine Gold Bluffs Beach, which actually stretched for miles in either direction from where we accessed it after finishing the Gold Dust Falls and Fern Canyon hikes
Enjoying the pristine Gold Bluffs Beach, which actually stretched for miles in either direction from where we accessed it after finishing the Gold Dust Falls and Fern Canyon hikes

It was a mere 1/4-mile walk past the restroom facility and picnic tables towards the dark-sanded but pristine beach.

And there was plenty of space to maintain social distance while also enjoying the mesmerizing yet turbulent motions of the ocean from the beach itself.

Technically, we could have walked along the Gold Bluffs Beach for as long as the eye can see (we can even join up with the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and Day-Use Area over a mile further to the south), but we didn’t feel the need to.

Indeed, when all was said and done, we pretty much had a nearly all-day out that encompassed the Fern Canyon hike, the Gold Dust Falls hike, and enjoying the Gold Bluffs Beach in a span of just under 6 hours.

Authorities

Gold Dust Falls and the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls reside in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Orick in Humboldt County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_021_iPhone_11212020 - The drive to Fern Canyon involved taking the unpaved Davidson Road, which started to become unpaved shortly after passing Elk Meadow
Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_025_iPhone_11212020 - Driving through a pretty thick grove of firs and redwoods along Davidson Road where not much sunlight makes it through the forest canopy
Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_034_iPhone_11212020 - Continuing on the unpaved Davidson Road as the scenery opened up a bit as we got closer to the unbridged stream crossing of Squashan Creek
Drive_to_Trillium_Falls_003_iPhone_11212020 - Looking at the unbridged crossing of Squashan Creek which would typically be too risky to try to cross without a high-clearance vehicle, but the creek had low flow during our November 2020 visit
Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_038_iPhone_11212020 - Looking at a particularly deep depression that we had to cross where some runoff of Squashan Creek cut into Davidson Road
Drive_to_Trillium_Falls_002_iPhone_11212020 - Looking back at another one of the unbridged stream crossings towards the end of Davidson Road
Drive_to_Trillium_Falls_001_iPhone_11212020 - Another look back at another eroded part of Davidson Road thanks to a third crossing of part of Squashan Creek
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_004_11212020 - Looking towards some picnic tables along some use-trails leading from the parking at the end of Davidson Road towards Gold Bluffs Beach
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_013_11212020 - Looking over some other picnic tables adjacent to the parking lot at the end of Davidson Road
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_015_11212020 - Julie and Tahia starting on the hike to Fern Canyon
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_017_11212020 - Initially, the hike towards Fern Canyon started off somewhat open in the first 0.2-mile
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_024_11212020 - Then, the initial 0.2-mile stretch of trail passed through a grove of trees covered in moss and ferns attesting to the high moisture of the area
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_026_11212020 - The initial 0.2-mile stretch of trail also passed by this rest bench, which might indicate the traffic that this section gets throughout the day
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_028_11212020 - Looking upstream from the mouth of Fern Canyon, which was what we initially did before I eventually got back to this spot and then continued north on the Coastal Trail or Davidson Trail in pursuit of the Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_197_11212020 - The unsigned nature of the Davidson Trail or Coastal Trail perhaps reduced the amount of foot traffic beyond Fern Canyon, especially since there were tricky spots where it was hard to tell whether or not to cross Home Creek or to go alongside it
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_201_11212020 - More maneuvering through a boggy section of the Coastal Trail where both Home Creek and Boat Creek flowed over it
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_204_11212020 - Still more tricky sections of the Coastal Trail where it wasn't obvious where it continued nor whether crossing the creek was warranted here
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_211_11212020 - Still persisting past the bog in pursuit of continuing on the Davidson Trail towards the Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_216_11212020 - Eventually after getting across Boat Creek, the Davidson Trail then started to dry out as it descended into the more open coastal savannah alongside the bluffs that might have also contributed to the nameplaces here
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_227_11212020 - Looking past some bog towards a teasing glimpse of the Pacific Ocean as seen from the Coastal Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_243_11212020 - Closeup look at one of the mushrooms growing besides the Davidson Trail while I was pursuing Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_257_11212020 - After going for a mile along the windswept coastal savannah, I then encounterd this herd of Roosevelt Elk that were too close to the trail to attempt to sneak past them
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_259_11212020 - Looking back at the herd of Roosevelt Elk as I was scooting around them in tall grass to maintain a wide berth so as to not appear to threaten them
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_261_11212020 - Contextual look with lots of overgrowth at the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls as seen from the Coastal Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_276_11212020 - Scrambling closer to the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls for a better look at it
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_281_11212020 - Another contextual look at the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls from the Davidson Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_291_11212020 - The elk were still grazing nearby the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls during my November 2020 visit
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_293_11212020 - Continuing along the Coastal Trail beyond the first of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls en route to the Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_295_11212020 - I'm betting that this was elk scat, and they were deposited by some of the elk in that herd that had hijacked the Coastal Trail during my November 2020 visit
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_307_11212020 - Looking between some trees towards the Gold Dust Falls as seen from the Coastal Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_325_11212020 - A more cleaner look at the Gold Dust Falls as I scrambled for a closer look
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_336_11212020 - Direct look at the Gold Dust Falls from near its base
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_373_11212020 - Closeup look at a pine cone that dropped onto the rest bench in front of Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_374_11212020 - This mountain biker was one of only two people that I saw while I was at Gold Dust Falls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_385_11212020 - Looking up from the base of the third and last of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_390_11212020 - Last look at the third of the Gold Bluffs Beach Waterfalls before I made the hike back to the end of the Davidson Road
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_395_11212020 - While returning from the Gold Dust Falls, I noticed that the herd of elk had finally moved towards the more ocean side of the windswept coastal savannah instead of hijacking the Davidson Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_405_11212020 - Looking in the distance towards the herd of elk that were continuing to graze even though they were no longer doing it next to the Davidson Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_411_11212020 - Looking towards one of the namesake bluffs flanking one side of the Davidson Trail
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_418_11212020 - Closeup look at an unusual flower or vegetation that had grown alongside the Coastal Trail during my Gold Dust Falls hike
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_429_11212020 - Returning to the boggy part of the Coastal Trail as I was about to come back to the mouth of Fern Canyon
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_430_11212020 - Looking towards some twisty tree that had some wooden planks stacked next to it.  Could those planks have been the seasonal footbridges that might have made hiking Fern Canyon easier than how we experienced it?
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_433_11212020 - Finally making it back to the end of the Davidson Road and concluding the Gold Dust Falls hike
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_445_11212020 - Looking to the north along Gold Bluffs Beach after having finished the Fern Canyon and Gold Dust Falls hikes
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_461_11212020 - Tahia enjoying herself trying to build a sand castle on Gold Bluffs Beach
Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_483_11212020 - Julie and Tahia walking back from Gold Bluffs Beach towards the parking lot at the end of Davidson Road


I’ll describe how we drove to Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach from Arcata since that was the most significant city or town before the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

The village of Orick was actually closer to the entrance of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but I’d argue it wasn’t a significant enough town to act as a base.

Drive_to_Golds_Bluff_Beach_019_iPhone_11212020 - Approaching the turnoff for Elk Meadow and Davidson Road while driving the US101 north of Orick
Approaching the turnoff for Elk Meadow and Davidson Road while driving the US101 north of Orick

So from city of Arcata, we drove north on the US101 for about 37 miles to the Davidson Road / Elk Meadow turnoff on the left.

This turnoff was about a mile north of Orick.

Then, we turned left onto the Davidson Road, where it became unpaved shortly after passing through Elk Meadow.

Next, we continued on the unpaved Davidson Road for about the next 5 miles to the Day Use Parking Area right in front of a gate before an unbridged crossing of Squashan Creek.

Drive_to_Trillium_Falls_004_iPhone_11212020 - Looking back at the day-use parking area from the gate fronting the unbridged crossing of Squashan Creek on Davidson Road
Looking back at the day-use parking area from the gate fronting the unbridged crossing of Squashan Creek on Davidson Road

If the creek crossing is too risky to proceed in a low-clearance passenger vehicle, then this Day Use Parking Area would be the end of the drive.

However, if the creek had low enough flow, and the erosion on the road wasn’t too bad, then it’s possible to drive the remaining 1.2 miles to the end of the Davidson Road and park there.

Overall, it took us about 80 minutes to make this drive though we did have about a 5-10 minute delay when a herd of elk blocked traffic on the US101.

There was an $8 parking fee during our November 2020 visit, which was collected at a kiosk roughly 2 miles before the unbridged Squashan Creek crossing.

Fern_Canyon_Gold_Dust_Falls_484_11212020 - The parking lot at the end of Davidson Road, which was busy by mid-day and early afternoon, but it was quiet when we started early in the morning
The parking lot at the end of Davidson Road, which was busy by mid-day and early afternoon, but it was quiet when we started early in the morning

For geographical context, Arcata was about 35 miles (over 30 minutes drive) south of Orick, 9 miles (about 15 minutes drive) north of Eureka, 142 miles (3 hours drive) north of Fort Bragg, about 151 miles (under 3.5 hours drive) north of Mendocino, 143 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Willits, 225 miles (about 4 hours drive) northwest of Santa Rosa, and 279 miles (about 5 hours drive) north of San Francisco.

Find A Place To Stay



Booking.com

Sweep starting from grazing elk before scrambling up to the base of the first of the Gold Dust Falls.


Video starting from a rest bench before scrambling right up to the base of the main Gold Dust Falls.


Three up and down sweeps of the 3rd Gold Dust Falls starting from its base then gradually moving away towards the main trail.

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Booking.com


Tagged with: prairie creek, redwoods state park, orick, gold bluffs beach, california, waterfall



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls


The Process of How I Earn Income Sharing My Passion Through Lived Experiences

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.