Sunday, October 29th, 2017
Car-Free Mountain Biking to Galbraith Mountain (you can too)
Todd Elsworth

You can’t help but be enticed to go up to Galbraith Mountain to ride sweet single-track and take in the sweeping views of the USA and Canada. The experience is unparalleled to anywhere in The Lower 48, which is why so many people are traveling here to soak it up.

It’s hard to believe that from downtown Bellingham you can ride on the extensive network of greenways that crisscrosses and connects the city to arrive in yet another labyrinth of trails that ups the ante even higher. This is our story.

Elizabeth Station has become a popular watering hole for many locals.

It all started on a Tuesday night at Elizabeth Station, a new local hot spot, when my buddy Kurt and I ran into another friend and fellow bicycle enthusiast, Kyle Morris.

We agreed to go for a ride with him on Friday morning. (OK, Kyle is more than an enthusiast, he IS bikes. He is the face of The HUB Community Bike Shop.)

We checked in on Thursday to make sure we were ready to uphold our commitment for a ride with Kyle. We discussed how we couldn’t “ethically” drive to meet him at The Hub Community Bike Shop because we expected that Kyle wouldn’t get in the car to go for a ride. We’re tough here in Bellingham and Kyle is one of our poster kids for the local cyclist’s code. He and his friends at The HUB demonstrate their commitment to car-free annually in the Ski to Sea Race, by completing the entire event without the support of a vehicle.

The Hub Community Bike Shop is located in downtown Bellingham and is an amazing resource for anything bike related.

Please understand that we are year-round committed Smart Commuters. However, when it comes to a mountain bike ride on a Friday morning we’re looking to maximize all the time we have riding in the dirt, even if that means we have to burn some gas gettin’ there. We knew we had to leave our cars at home. We had to consider that this was Kyle and we had to respect his turf. It was also a challenge for us “desk jockeys”. That was that we’d ride.

“The Bellingham trail network is anchored by the Galbraith Mountain Trail System, which is home to a whopping 64 miles of mountain biking on its own” – Singletracks.  Photo by Brandon Sawaya

We met Kyle at 8 am sharp and we brought him up to speed on our conversation about combustion. He laughed and replied, “So where we goin’? I gotta be back in 2 hours.” The decision was easy to head up to popular Galbraith Mountain.

We hate to brag, but we’ve been ranked among the Top 10 places to ride in the nation by Mountain Bike Magazine, Galbraith Mountain is the area between Lake Padden and Lake Whatcom. We also were named at one of the next 10 Best Mountain Bike Destinations that you need to visit in the United States by Singletracks.com.

Shredding mountain bike trails on Galbraith Mountain. Photo by Jadyn Welch

Galbraith Mountain is privately owned land and the trails are maintained for non-motorized use by volunteers in the local group WHIMPS (Whatcom Independent Mountain Pedalers).

Within 5 minutes, we had crossed town and were on the gravel greenway path headed alongside Whatcom Creek Trail through the plethora of paths that weave up the creek.

Our climb started as soon as we crossed Woburn and entered Whatcom Falls Park. We were led through some hidden gems as we intersected the park. We hit some pavement for a couple minutes and then entered the slice of single-track heaven in our backyard endearingly referred to as “Galby”.

Whatcom Falls Park is a local gem, and give access to many awesome trails. Photo by Jeff Duncan

Once we were in the woods we enjoyed Miranda’s sweet little switchbacks- which I will let you know if you’re mentally ready for what you are about to encounter. Ahead, The Ridge Trail is a pleasant climb with nothing too technical and you can get some great views of Bellingham and the Canadian Border peaks to the north.

The end of the Ridge trail offers some choices. We chose to take a ride on Family Fun Center. What else is there to say? It’s fast and fun.

Stephen Ettinger is a local professional XC mountain biker and loves all of the variety of trails Bellingham has to offer. Photo by Brandon Sawaya

Like your favorite ski hill, our mountain-bike mecca has some great names to give the place, even more, local flavor. Our next route was to climb “up The Intestine” and make our way into a mixture of new and old trails- I can’t really tell you where we went (because we weren’t quite sure ourselves at times) but I can assure you that it was a hoot.

Aaron Fitts rides SST, a trail on Galbraith Mountain in Bellingham. Photo by Eric Mickelson

We actually holler on our way down as we catch little bits of air (getting older/wiser) and shoot through burmed corners as the images of trees pass our field of vision as we fly on by. Fortunately, the WHIMPS who build and maintain the trails make it possible for everybody to enjoy.

Before we knew it we were back on the familiar Cedar Dust Trail and carried it right through, and when we got to the gate Kyle turned around with a huge smile and we gave our celebratory high five recognizing our accomplishment and how much fun we just had screaming through the woods. Then we cruised on home, hooking up with Whatcom Creek Trail again to backtrack our route into town.

It was about 10:15 am when we rolled through town. And as easy as that was, what a great way to start a Friday.

This is how we bike around Bellingham.

To learn more about cycling in the Bellingham region, see our cycling page
For an updated list of local cycling events and equipment see Basecampbellingham.org.

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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.