Well kept secret, hidden canyon w/ponds and ferns along stream, majestic cliffs
Climbers will know Fern Canyon from the Dark Shadows climb. Most climbers follow the upper path, which is a dirt/rock trail that works it way WNW under cliffs N of Pine Creek. If you enjoy bouldering, I highly recommend you follow the stream up the canyon instead or you could easily miss the many ponds, pools, ferns, and lush vegetation. Use the dead pine in the photo as a landmark for when to leave the dirt/rock trail and enter the streambed. Follow the stream PAST the climbers launch for Dark Shadows, and turn the corner heading W into the canyon as the cliffs narrow above (N of Mescalito). As the canyon narrows, continue bouldering (class II and III), or scramble up the many game trails (very steep and rocky) to the end of the canyon (ends in seasonal waterfall). Don't feel bad if you don't make it to the end -- this is about 6 miles RT from the parking lot and gets very rough in the end. Instead, enjoy the incredible sights and sounds, many rest/lunch spots.
Be advised that the USGS topo does NOT accurately reflect the location of the scenic loop road within Red Rock National Conservation Area. 18 miles W of Las Vegas Blvd. on Charleston Ave (SR 159) to Red Rock entry (fee) station. Take the scenic loop to Pine Creek parking (fills up early). Descend steep trail down hill and head W towards Pine Creek till you pass Old Wilson Homestead (concrete foundation S of trail). Continue W on trail until fork in road, take N (right) fork and head NNW - see photo. Continue on trail into the north canyon of Pine Creek (stay right of Mescalito), look for landmark dead pine still standing - see photo, head up stream for bouldering route. If you MUST hike in the summer, be sure and hike early and be out of the canyon by 9 a.m. -- do NOT hike in the afternoon in the summer. Although there is water, do not drink it, bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog. If this trail is too rough, try the S fork instead and forget Fern C.
Red Rock (BLM) ranger at entry to NCA (fee station) 702-515-5950