I love the outdoors, and I am inspired by gorgeous surroundings, which is why Whatcom County is a perfect fit for me. The options for getting outside are plentiful, all year long. Fall and winter can be a spectacular time for walking on miles of well-groomed trails through county and city parks, while listening to the birds, feeling the warmth of winter sun rays, or admiring the magic of Jack Frost. Here are some of my favorite spots:
Hovander Homestead Park and Tennant Lake. As you can see on this map, the 720-acre park and 624-acre wildlife area are adjacent to each other and share a trail system. They are located in Ferndale, off Nielsen Avenue. From either parking lot, the .4-mile Hovander-Tennant trail is my favorite place to start. Wispy deciduous branches arc overhead and beckon to show off their fall colors. Within a few steps, visitors are surrounded by quiet nature and motivated to continue on.
The Nooksack River Dike Trail stretches 2.2 miles through both properties along the high bank of the river, although in most places the view is not water, but trees and open fields. Signs indicate some sections in which dogs are allowed to be off-leash. Dogs are not allowed on the Tennant Lake Boardwalk trail, which is probably a good idea because mine would spend most of her time jumping in the water! This 1.4-mile trail is literally a boardwalk that meanders through a wooded marsh over a wetland peat-bog, and feels like a secret adventure once you’re inside.
Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. If you’re looking for a walk through towering evergreens at a low elevation, this is the place to go. Unexpectedly located off Lake Louise Road on the south side of Lake Whatcom, this 350-acre reserve includes a 4-mile loop trail through dense, mature forest with old growth trees and past a beaver pond. It feels as remote as it did a century ago, except for the wide and inviting trail. Tom Chisholm of the Whatcom County Parks Department sees to it that “the trails are maintained to the level that you don’t have to have hiking boots to enjoy them. They are all-weather, all the time.” He says, “We used to think people hike and walk in the summer, but that’s not true here. People hike and walk year-round and our county trails are highly accessible in the winter.” The county has teamed with Whatcom Land Trust, Western Washington University and the state to protect this reserve. Even raindrops feel like magic crystals here.
South Bay Trail. The true beauty of Whatcom County is our proximity to so many environments, so close together. If the water is what you’re craving, the cure is certainly the South Bay Trail and its Taylor Dock stretch across Bellingham Bay. Although many people think to walk here during the summer, when the sailboats are out and the sun is definitely shining, the sea breeze is a soothing tonic even when the air is blustery. Put on your rainproof gear and head for the waves. An extra perk to this winter walk is the availability of a warm beverage nearby in the Fairhaven Historic District or at Woods Coffee in Boulevard Park (where there’s also an indoor-outdoor fireplace for further enjoying the water views). There are three parking options for this trail: downtown to access the trailhead at Railroad and Maple St.; Boulevard Park; or the Fairhaven district. The full trail is 2.3 miles in length.
Each of these is calling my name. I’ve got to stop typing and get myself outside for more winter walks research!