Bellingham and Whatcom County are known for incredible outdoor recreation opportunities. Although many visitors seek adrenaline in the outdoors, Bellingham is also blessed with numerous quiet nature trails leading to waterfalls, through old-growth forest, and along peaceful lakes and bays. If you just want to get outside for a walk, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top 10 walking trails in Whatcom County.
Bellingham Walking Trails
1. South Bay Trail
Connecting downtown Bellingham to the Historic Fairhaven District, the scenic South Bay Trail is Bellingham’s iconic waterfront walk. At 2.5 miles one-way, it’s long enough for a good workout yet short enough to walk in a few hours. The trail is mostly flat with the exception of Taylor Dock, which transports walkers from the bluff above to a boardwalk over Bellingham Bay.
You can begin at several points along the trail. In Fairhaven, the trail begins at the corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street, near the Fairhaven Village Green. There’s also plenty of parking at Boulevard Park. Or you can begin at the north end of the trail in downtown Bellingham, at the signed Laurel Street trail head (between Railroad Avenue and State Street).
2. Whatcom Falls Park
One of Whatcom County’s most-loved natural landmarks, Whatcom Falls Park is a family favorite destination year-round. Viewed from a 1939-built stone bridge, the falls can swell up to 40 feet wide during rainier months.
A short, paved walkway leads to the main falls from the Silver Beach Road parking lot off of Lakeway Drive. From here, over 5 miles of gravel trails spread throughout the park. Most are gentle, and great for a leisurely walk.
3. Interurban Trail
Among the many hiking trails that traverse the Chuckanut Mountains, the Interurban Trail is the most gentle. At 6 miles (one way) in length, this mostly flat former trolley line is wide and well-used by walkers, bikers, and joggers. Running from Fairhaven to Larrabee State Park, the trail parallels Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway.
4. Lake Padden
Lake Padden’s 2.6-mile loop trail is an excellent year-round walking destination near Bellingham. Similar in size to Seattle’s Green Lake (yet far less urban), Padden is frequented by walkers, joggers, and summertime swimmers and sunbathers. The gravel path is mostly flat, with steeper horse trails available for those seeking a workout.
To access the park, take I-5 exit 252 and drive southeast along Samish Way for 2 miles to the West Lake Padden parking lot on the right. Or you can continue down Samish Way to the East entrance for access to the off-leash dog park.
Whatcom County Walking Trails
5. Stimpson Family Nature Reserve (south side of Lake Whatcom)
For those in need of a forest bathing experience, Stimpson Reserve delivers 350 acres of undisturbed old-growth. Walk beneath the lush canopy to access two loop trails. The shorter and easier of the two encircles Geneva Pond, while the longer main loop meanders for 2.8 miles. In total, you can walk over 4 miles on these wooded trails. Watch and listen for wildlife as you wander.
On the southern side of Lake Whatcom, access Stimpson Reserve from the trailhead off of Lake Louise Road, near Sudden Valley.
6. Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail (north side of Lake Whatcom)
Running for 3 miles along Lake Whatcom’s northern shoreline, the Hertz Trail features covered bridges, quiet beaches, and calming fall colors. This railroad-turned-trail once served the Blue Canyon Mines at the south end of the lake. Today, it’s an easy stroll for all ages.
From the trailhead at Lake Whatcom Park, walk south on the trail. After 1 mile you’ll reach a small waterfall, followed by a covered bridge and beach. This is a great turnaround spot, especially for little legs. You can continue south for 2 more miles from here, where the trail eventually terminates at a private property boundary.
7. Hovander Homestead and Tennet Lake Boardwalk (Ferndale)
Take a trip to Ferndale’s Hovander Homestead Park to walk through history. Established in 1898, the homestead property offers 4 miles of trails. A 1.5-mile boardwalk trail meanders through the wetland marsh at Tennant Lake. Climb a viewing tower, too! A 0.5-mile trail connects the lake with Hovander’s “big red barn” and historic buildings. There are also 2 miles of trail running along the river dike of the Nooksack River.
Take I-5 exit 262 and head west towards Ferndale on Main Street. At the railroad underpass, turn south onto Homestead Road and follow the signs into the park.
8. Semiahmoo Spit (Blaine)
Take a paved 0.8-mile trail with scenic water views at Semiahmoo Spit in northwest Whatcom County. Great for a leisurely walk, family bike ride, or bird watching, the south side of the spit offers views over Drayton Harbor to Mount Baker. Venture to the north side of the spit for a 1-mile beach walk.
Take I-5 exit 270 and follow the signs to Semiahmoo Resort (about 9 miles) to access the trailhead at Semiahmoo Park.
9. Picture Lake (Mount Baker Highway)
Drive the scenic Mount Baker Highway for 54 miles east of Bellingham to take in one of the finest views in Whatcom County: Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake. With a fresh dusting of snow on Mount Shuksan and an array of fall colors, Picture Lake is especially picturesque during autumn. Walk the 0.5-mile, ADA-accessible loop trail around the lake for views from every angle.
10. Ladder Creek Falls (North Cascades Highway)
Stretch your legs with a family-friendly stroll to learn about Newhalem history at Ladder Creek Falls. In the evenings, a colored light show provides entertainment from dusk till 11 p.m. year-round. Featuring a suspension bridge over the Skagit River, gardens, and a 1920’s powerhouse, the trail to Ladder Creek Falls is an excellent micro-adventure for all ages.
For access, head east from Burlington on Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway). Drive to the town of Newhalem at milepost 120. Turn right onto Main Street, pass the General Store and restrooms, then turn left onto the one-way road. Continue 0.25 miles to the Ladder Creek Falls trailhead at the east end of town. Parking is available in a gravel lot next to the river.
Read more: Hike Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem, WA