Monday, November 21st, 2016
A Fun Fall Hike through Chuckanut Creek and Falls

From the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead parking lot, just off Chuckanut Drive, we were looking for a short hike under the cover of the forest canopy of Chuckanut Mountain Park. Rain was in the forecast, but we had to get out there for some fresh air.

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We followed the sign pointing to the Chuckanut Trails, as part of the larger Interurban Trail that extends south to Larrabee State Park. We’d follow the Hemlock Trail to get to Chuckanut Falls.

According to Whatcom County Parks:
“The Hemlock Trail is the main gateway into the northern part of the Chuckanuts. From the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead and Arroyo Park, the Hemlock Trail links to the Lost Lake trails to the south and the Pine and Cedar Lakes trails to the east. This trail will lead you to amazing views of waterfalls, mountains, Bellingham Bay, and the San Juan Islands…come experience why the Chuckanuts are the heart of Bellingham’s year-round recreation lifestyle.”

From the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead
Moderate, 2.7 miles round trip to Chuckanut Falls via loop
Moderate, 1.2 miles one-way to the Lost Lake Trail Junction
Moderate, 2.1 miles one-way to the Huckleberry Trail
Moderate, 2.5 miles one-way to the Salal/Huckleberry Trail Junction
Difficult, 3.5 miles one-way to the Raptor Ridge Trail
Difficult, 4.1 miles one-way to the junction with the Pine and Cedar Lakes Trail

As we crossed the slope on the wide path, we encountered our first waterfall. This small creek is one of the many tributaries that flows into Chuckanut Creek below.

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Walking a bit further, we could peer down the steep slope and see the rushing creek below. This time of year, it is teeming with spawning Chum salmon, which would also become a part of our agenda!

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The signage in the forest helps point the way and keep you on track as you explore the criss-crossed paths that line the slopes. It was also comforting to know that we were getting close and on the right track.

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Of course, we had our Chuckanut Mountain map with us to help guide the way and provide prospective on where we were in proximity to it all. Yes, that is I-5 nearby.

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I like to pretend that the rushing sound of the vehicles on the interstate is a large river flowing nearby. The natural sound of cascading water creates negative ions with positive vibrations resounding in our body and souls. We stayed and soaked it in.

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Back on the trail, we ventured on and were easily distracted by the variety of the fungus among us. Stopping to check out the spores and fungi that sprout out is always time well spent getting to know the natural environment a little better with each step.

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As we walked up to the reconnect with the Hemlock Trail, this big one had just broken through the surface of solid dirt. This is one small example of the power of nature you can be exposed to- just a short step out of town.

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We weren’t the only ones out on a rainy weekend day. We came across two different groups of kids in the local Explorers programs. Both groups of girls and boys were geared up in their raingear and bounding their way through the forest. The young group of girls we encountered even offered up some licorice root that they had plucked from the dirt floor. Yes, it was yummy.

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We wound down the Hemlock Trail and headed down to the base of the creek in Arroyo Park. I knew that our friends from NSEA would be there, helping to interpret the journey that the Chum salmon were making. I had recently updated a previous story, Chasing Chums up Chuckanut Creek, and wanted to check in on this year’s return!

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The trails were full of salmon watchers and the creek lined with Chum making their last ditch effort to spawn and yes, die.

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Spring will bring a rebirth and a chance to look for little fry the next time we get out there! Hiking in the fall is a great opportunity to make a connection with the full life cycle.

For more outdoor adventure ideas, see the full list of Todd’s articles.

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About the Author:

As the Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse and co-founder of Kulshan Quest Adventure Race, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.