November 2019 Hike of the Month: Licorice Fern Trail

This fall wonderland of a hike is full of mossy trees and crunchy maple leaves

By Hilary Meyerson November 4, 2019


It’s November and shorter daylight hours mean shorter hikes. If you’re not quite ready to bring out the snowshoes and full winter gear, it’s also a good time to explore the lower elevation hikes. Late October brought a round of early snow to the mountains, and closed off a lot of trails close to Seattle for the more casual hiker just looking for an autumnal stroll. For November, we suggest trying one of the lesser-known trails at Cougar Mountain—Licorice Fern Trail.

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlife Park is 3,000+ acres and is connected to Squak Mountain Park in the Cougar-Squak Corridor Park, which totals 5,000 acres in the Issaquah Alps. It’s got more than 35 miles of hiking trails, most accessible from the north side of the park. It’s a favorite for trail runners, and hosts a trail running series during the summer and early fall. It’s a great example of the outdoor riches available within a short drive of the city.

The Licorice Fern Trail is off the beaten path, and is one of the few trails accessible from the south end of the park. Less than 15 minutes from I-405, the trailhead parking is just a few spots along the road near a residential house. No matter—there is rarely more than a car there. It takes just a few minutes to be out of visual range of any houses and into the woods. Within ten minutes, you might think you’re in the heart of the Central Cascades. The trail winds its way along a ravine and is lined with mossy trees and the ubiquitous sword ferns. A small stream trickles through the bottom of the ravine. Huge maple leaves are covering the ground and make a satisfying crunch as you kick through them. The trail is a nice up and down without any major elevation gain, so it’s a perfect late-afternoon (or post-Thanksgiving Day meal) stroll for all ages and abilities.

One mile in, you’ll hit civilization again in the form of the Licorice Way road. You can cross the street and continue for about 0.5 miles to the Far Country Falls overlook, with a view of a small waterfall, or turn around and head back the way you came. You can be back at your car in 30 minutes at a decent pace. There’s plenty of time to do this hike after work and be home in time for dinner.

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