The Sword Fern Trail is a 2.5-mile horseshoe-shaped loop trail accessed from Bells Mountain Trail. Four feet wide and moderate in intensity, it includes banked trail turns for bikes (thought no motorized use is allowed).
The path is through a third-growth Douglas and hemlock fir forest planted in the 1960s. There are no streams, (so bring all the water you need), a closed canopy (shade!), and the understory is sparse with namesake ferns and Oregon grape.
Despite the close canopy, there are occasional views east of the Dole valley and Silver Star Mountain beyond.
Most people will access this trail from Moulton Falls County Park. Hike west for 0.7 miles and then turn onto the Bells Mountain Trail. From here, you'll head south for 1.4 miles until you arrive at the intersection of the Bells Mountain Trail and the Sword Fern Trail.
The Sword Fern Trail ascends towards Bells Mountain, levels near the top, then descends back to the Bells Mountain Trail 0.9 miles south from where it started. Logging roads lace the area and the trail crosses three of them. You can continue on the Bells Mountain Trail by turning right, or turn left, and hike back 3 miles toward the trailhead on the Bells Mountain Trail.
Washington Trails Association was the principal designer and developer of the trail and partnered with the Department of Natural Resources and Washington Conservation Corps. The trail is one of 10 new or planned trails in the Yacolt Burn State Forest by the Department of Natural Resources.