hike: Bells Mountain – Sword Fern Way loop
This hike in Southwest Washington begins at Moulton Falls Park and goes up to the summit of Bells Mountain through mossy forests and open formerly logged sections with views towards the Silver Star Mountain area.
distance: 8.4 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 1,785 ft.
best season: fall, spring
drive time from Portland: 1 hour
parking pass: none
hike description: OregonHikers.org: Sword Fern Way Hike
There are multiple parking areas at Moulton Falls Park. We parked at the Upper Moulton Falls trailhead, accessible via a short road located on the right just before the junction of NE Lucia Falls Road and NE Sunset Falls Road. This parking area is usually less crowded than the others on the main road and it’s easier to reach the trail we wanted to take.
At the start of the hike, the East Fork Lewis River is absolutely stunning and well worth spending more time to explore the many side trails that lead to the river. However, we were here for a longer hike, so after crossing the arch bridge, we took the paved trail a short distance to the Bells Mountain Trail where we headed up up up to the summit of Bells Mountain.
After crossing the bridge, we continued on a paved trail that leads to the Hantwick Road trailhead. The Bells Mountain trailhead is located on this paved path about 0.4 miles from where we parked.
The paved path section is right next to the river. A popular spot for accessing views of Moulton Falls is across the river here.
At the start of the Bells Mountain trail, we turned left and headed uphill through a mossy forest filled with ferns. This area was heavily burned in the 1902 Yacolt Burn, with a few remaining snags amongst the 100 year old trees that grew after the fire.
We crossed many small streams with footbridges that all looked the same. Sections of this trail are quite steep, but other than a few muddy spots, the tread is in great condition and not difficult to hike.
As we headed up, we crossed through a former logged section that had views to the north and east.
Getting closer to the top of Bells Mountain, we turned at this old logging road and took a small section of trail through forest to the summit area.
Many of the Douglas-firs had these side branches covered in moss. This was one of the most striking examples of them.
At the top of Bells Mountain, we turned left on this logging road for a very short distance to a faint trail heading back down.
On another logging road, we stopped and had lunch with views to the southeast of Silver Star Mountain and Larch Mountain.
Continuing on the lollipop loop, we headed back into forest, crossed more logging roads and went through a few more previously logged sections before reaching the main Bells Mountain trail we had taken up.
Back on the paved trail, we headed back to the parking lot, stopping to take in some of the beauty next to the trail.
We crossed the arch bridge again and planned a future trip to come back to explore all of the trails closer to the river.