Polypody Fern Beds Are Prevalent & Lush In The Front Country Canyons of Mount Wilson

Posted on February 7, 2014 – Written by Chris Kasten

Despite the lack of rain and snow as of early February, the shady north-facing  canyon slopes of the Mt. Wilson area still appear damp and green.  Regardless of the steepness of the mountainsides, if there’s enough shade and crevices in the rocks to set roots, then it’s likely you’ll happen upon some fern beds. These nearly vertical meadows of ferny green are native to the southern california coastal and inland mountains.   By summer when the rains are long over and the temperatures climb, California polypody  (Polypodium californicum) withers to dry, light brown stalks that would give little clue to their winter time fullness.

Polypody fern bed on damp slope in East Fork of Big Santa Anita Canyon. It just takes a little rain to bring these ferns back!
A wooden footbridge graces the tumbling waters of the Big Santa Anita Creek at Fern Lodge junction. This photo, taken during the Great Hiking Era, quite likely dates back to the teens or early 1920’s.

So, watch for this beautiful, native perennial on your next hike out of Chantry Flats or any of the front country trailheads.  Both of these photos were taken in the Fern Lodge area of Big Santa Anita Canyon, about 1 1/2 miles in from the Chantry Flats trailhead.  Fern Lodge was once a thriving mountain resort during the “Great Hiking Era.”  True to its’ name, ferns of several varieties still abound.  Today, there is still a beautiful little community of private cabins here, set among the wooded stream side ledges.  Many hikers know this area also as the place where the Upper Falls and Gabrielino trails meet at Fern Lodge Junction.