Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern Trail: Quiet Forest

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A dirt trail winds through the forest on Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern trail. There are green trees and a carpet of ferns on the forest floor
There are lots of ferns on this trail!

The Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern trail is a mellow forest walk without many people in Cougar Mountain Regional Park. At about 4 miles round trip and with 200 feet of elevation gain, it’s a good year round, close to town option! This hike does go up and down quite a few times, so it feels like a little more elevation gain than advertised.

Is the Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern Trail right for me?

The Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern trail is a good option if you’re looking for something close to home with a bit of climbing but not a huge amount. I will say that this trail feels a bit harder than the elevation gain suggests, since there are some up and downs in gulleys and there are several switchbacks that are a bit eroded. This trail seems lightly traveled, possibly because the trailhead isn’t super obvious (see below). There is a viewpoint but it’s not particularly grand.

When is a good time for the Cougar Mountain Licorice Fern trail?

Definitely any time of year, especially a day you want something relatively short and close by. This trail can get pretty muddy so it would be good to have shoes for mud or do it at a dry time.

Where is it?

Cougar Mountain Regional Park is located between Bellevue and Issaquah and includes miles and miles of trails. To access this one, take I-90 East to Issaquah, taking exit 15 and going right, which takes you through downtown Issaquah. In 4 miles, turn right onto May Valley Road, and then a very sharp right turn onto SE 112th st. The road makes a big left turn, and the trailhead is on the right in the middle of the corner. It definitely looks like someone’s yard, but there’s a small hiker sign. You park on the street here, taking care to not block the mailbox! No passes are needed for this trailhead.

A paved, two lane road through the forest. There is a blue SUV parked on the side of the road. There is also a mailbox and a small hiker sign with an arrow to the right
The parking area for the Licorice Fern Trail-don’t block the mailbox!

Trail Description

As you look for the trail, do NOT take the paved driveway. Go straight and very quickly the trail becomes more obvious with a sign. You will climb up and down and then up through the forest and after a mile you will cross a road. On the other side of the road, the trail goes left (well signed) and into the forest again.

A close up of the bottom of bright green ferns and moss in the forest.
Don’t forget to look close at the ferns and moss on these forest hikes!

In less than a mile (you’ll hit a junction 0.3 miles past the road, stay left), you’ll see another junction with the Far Country trail going to the right. Here, you have a couple of options. You can go left (more like straight) and get to Far Country Falls in a short distance or you can go right and get to the Overlook in a short distance, or you can do both!

A break in evergreen trees shows a valley in the distance, with puffy clouds and a blue sky
The view from the Far Country Lookout

Neither the waterfall or overlook are spectacular, but if you’re there you might as well check them out! If you’re looking for a bigger waterfall in the same area, check out Coal Creek Falls. You can make this hike as long as you want connecting to the many trails on Cougar Mountain, or you can return the way you came for a 4 mile outing.

A close up of the bottom of bright green ferns and moss in the forest. Text reads: Licorice Fern Trail Cougar Mountain Regional Park near Seattle
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Jennie Flaming
Jennie Thwing Flaming, Chief Adventure Officer: Jennie's life has been a continual quest for adventure (of the non-adrenalin inducing kind) from birth till now. Professionally, she pursues adventures in teaching, counseling and working to obliterate institutional racism for students in our region's public schools and also works as a tour and hiking guide. Previous professional adventures include working in schools in Seattle and Alaska, leading tours and managing tour guides and presenting traveling science shows and lessons with Pacific Science Center. She believes in sharing her beloved Pacific Northwest home with visitors. She likes to be outdoors and spend time with the people she loves. Jennie is born and raised in Seattle and has also lived in Alaska and the Netherlands.