Recreation - Hiking
There are over 110 hiking trails in Whatcom County, so the new experiences are almost endless! Trails encompass a range of difficulty from easy strolls to steep climbs, and run through a variety of areas, including the coast, urban areas, the Chuckanuts, lowlands and foothills, the Mount Baker area and the North Cascades. The best and most detailed resource on these trails is the book “Hiking Whatcom County”, by Ken Wilcox.
All of these trails are relatively easy and are nice for a quick day stroll or a walk with the whole family. In town, you can meander through Historic Bellingham and Fairhaven or Cornwall Park. For a more scenic route, check out the Sehome Hill Arboretum, Padden Ridge, Whatcom Creek, River Walk, or the Bay-to-Baker Trail. The latter is a work in progress which is hoped to link the communities of Bellingham, Everson, Nooksack, Lynden, Sumas, Kendall, Maple Falls and Glacier. This would be a beautiful introduction to Whatcom County for outdoor enthusiasts new to the area.
Coastal trails provide unparalleled scenery and are mostly an easy skill level, with a few slightly more challenging exceptions. Most can be done in a couple of hours or less. The gentler trails include Lighthouse Point, Semiahmoo Bay, Cherry Point Beach, Teddy Bear Cove, the South Bay Trail, and Clayton Beach. Trails requiring a bit more effort are Birch Bay & Point Whitehorn and Clayton Beach. At the former, make sure to bring binoculars so you can view the exceptional birds and harbor seals, which are out all year round but are present in large flocks in the spring. The latter is a part of Larrabee State Park and provides large sandy beaches and exquisite sandstone formations.
The Chuckanut trails range from easiest to difficult, and all provide gorgeous views of the mountains. The easiest trails are Lake Samish and the historic Interurban Trail, which begins near downtown Fairhaven and winds through Arroyo and Larrabee State Park to the Chuckanuts. Fragrance Lake, a year-round favorite of locals, and Chuckanut Ridge, which is very scenic and runs along cliffs, are slightly more challenging trails. The difficult routes include Pine & Cedar Lakes, Hemlock Trail & Raptor Ridge, Lost Lake and Oyster Dome. The extra time and effort required for these trails is worth it for the spectacular views of the mountains, lakes, foliage and wildlife found deeper into the wilderness.
Lowlands and Foothills
These trails also run the gamut from easy to difficult, with one trail of the highest difficulty rating. The less challenging trails include Berthusen Park, Terrell Creek Marsh, Nooksack River, and Lake Whatcom. The latter is a favorite among locals, with sights including tall majestic trees, large cliffs and running waterfalls, and a route which follows a railroad grade along an old coal transport course. More difficult trails include the Stimpson Nature Reserve, Squires Lake & Alger Alp, and the South Fork Nooksack River. For a challenge, try Galbraith Mountain, Lookout Mountain, or Canyon Lake Creek Community Forest – and at the highest level is Sumas Mountain, from the top of which hikers are rewarded with excellent views of western Whatcom County, the Fraser River Valley, and the B.C. Coast Range; the scenery is of course gorgeous the whole way up, as well.
Mount Baker Area
The Mount Baker Area is a good place to go for a challenge, with difficult to extremely difficult trail ratings. A few easy trails are present at Horseshoe Bend, Shadow of the Sentinels, and Baker Hot Springs. Shadow of the Sentinels is one of the best easy trails; it is open year round and takes only an hour to accomplish an unforgettable self-guided nature walk. Difficult trails are numerous, including Church Lake & Bearpaw Mountain, Cougar Divide, Yellow Aster Butte, Panorama Dome, Boulder Ridge and Rainbow Ridge. The high-difficulty routes include Welcome Pass, Ridley Creek & Mazama Park and Morovits Meadows & Park Butte. The latter is one of the best hikes in the Mount Baker area, with stunning alpine views and plenty of good destinations for a day hike during the July-October season.
The North Cascades
The majestic North Cascades are some of the best trails with the most exquisite views in Whatcom County, with a good number of easy to moderate trails besides plenty of the most difficult. For less of a challenge,try the Skagit River Loop, Ladder Creek Falls & Trail of the Cedars, Gorge Creek Falls or Happy Creek. Ladder Creek is one of best easy trails, open almost all year and taking only 1-2 hours. The falls are beautiful, and the trail has been vamped-up with a lighting and sound system which makes for a famous evening walk among locals. For more challenging hikes, you can travel Shuksan Lake, Baker River, Diablo Lake & Skagit Gorge, Thunder Knob or Stetattle Creek, to name a few. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can tackle Hannegan Pass & Peak, Shannon Ridge, Thornton Lakes & Trapper Peak, Sourdough Mountain or Crater Lake & Lookout. Sourdough Mountain is one of the best but also one of the most strenuous hikes in the North Cascades, taking 7-12 hours and often done as an overnight trip. The fantastic panorama at the summit is well worth the effort, however.