Licorice Fern Natural Area. Credit: Nancy Chaney
Licorice Fern Natural Area, Seattle
Licorice Fern (along with Kingfisher Natural Area mentioned earlier) is part of the extended Thornton Creek Watershed owned by the City of Seattle. This wild riparian pocket was reforested at one point, and many invasive plants were removed. The open space has been maintained by local neighbors, but on a visit in 2020, the area was quite overgrown. There was also evidence of possible camping in the area.
You can still make your way along the creekside, with logs or benches to sit on while listening to the water. Bigleaf maples and skunk cabbage surround the trail. This watershed is where I brought my son when he was still an infant, to experience the sounds and sights of nature on a small scale, close to home. You might spy a pileated woodpecker or see evidence of the beavers that make their home closer to the nearby Jackson Park Golf Course.
My son enjoyed quietly exploring the various trails and checking out the treehouse platform that overlooks the creek (it's now falling apart, and not climbable). We were careful to remain on the trails and "leave no trace" as if we were in the wilderness, as Licorice Fern is a wild sanctuary in the city.
Find it: The open space is accessible at the end of Northeast 130th Street, a few blocks west of 15th Avenue Northeast. Please park on 12th Northeast and walk down to the entrance. Remember that this is a residential area as well as a sanctuary for wildlife. Stay on marked trails and keep voices moderate.
Length of trail: At most, it is a quarter of a mile. Perfect for a first-time hike with little tots.
Tips: Wear rubber boots, as the trail can be quite muddy and primitive. The closest retail area and restroom is the Safeway at the intersection of Northeast 125th Street and 15th Avenue Northeast.
More nature trails to explore with kids:
Editor's note: This article was originally published several years ago and updated most recently in 2021.