Monday, April 21st, 2014
Explore the new Rock Trail in the Chuckanut Mountains
Todd Elsworth

There is a fresh trail in the Chuckanut Mountains of Larrabee State Park. The best feature of both the trail and the park is that they are both just south of Bellingham on Chuckanut Drive. This new trail is aptly named the Rock Trail. Not because it is a trail made of rocks, however. It is because of the immense rock faces and building-size boulders that occupy the slope it passes through.

RockTrailsignpost

As you descend one of the 20 ladders that have been installed on the trail, you will pass through thick forests with glimpses out into Samish Bay to the south and the Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters to the east. The couple on the stairs below, Nate and Jen, from Seattle, paused to see what I was up to as I positioned myself for a birds-eye view of the recent construction. Like many people, Nate is a graduate of Western Washington University, who likes to come up from Seattle for a jaunt in the woods. His humor echoed through the woods as he remarked about the scent of the air- “it has that NEW TRAIL smell”. I lol’d.

RockTrailstairs

Back on the trail, the stairs descend steeply before leveling out to wrap around the backside of the “hill”. It’s fun to leapfrog people on the trail when you’re out on a walk. They stop and find something interesting, while you pass them on the trail. Then, they in turn, pass you as you pause to take in what nature has to offer. Always an interesting way to meet new people- even if it’s only for an instance.

RockTrailstaircase

The first rock exposure you pass under is just at the base of the stairs. For a detailed account of the trail and for more insight into the geologic history of the Rock Trail go to a local geologist, Dave Tucker’s Northwest Geology Field Trips – Rock Trail webpage.

RockTrailoverhang

The trail traverses through the forest and brings you to a large rock face, known as Tafoni Wall. Tucker puts the name of the wall in perspective- “The cliffs reveal some fine stratigraphic detail; a contact between conglomerate and sandstone, thin sandstone beds highlighted by mineral concentrations, and solution pockets (tafoni)”

RockTrailcliff

Above, a couple inspects the tafoni on the wall of its namesake. These large holes are quite deep and also nice and cool on a hot day- see below. I’m too big to fit myself in one (but when I bring my 5-year-old back, we may just have to see if she fits in there). I am used to seeing these types of impressions in the Chuckanut Sandstone on the shores of Bellingham Bay and around the Salish Sea, but to have them on the eastern facing slopes of the Chuckanut Range, seemed a little strange.

RockTrailcaves

I made my way to the end of the trail and decided to head back up. There are options once you get to that junction.  “Consult a trail map to know what to do from there; a left turn takes you to the Lost Lake Trail 1.5 miles from the start of the Rock Trail. A right takes you on a long sweep to the Fragrance Lake area” Again, for a detailed description of the Rock Trail go to Dave Tucker’s Northwest Geology Field Trips website.

On my way back up the trail, I noticed the sign for the bridge I had crossed earlier- “Bogaards Bridge”. I imagine it was named after Arlen Bogaards, Northwest Regional Manager with the Washington Trails Association who both put in an amazing amount of work, both as an individual and as an organization and their volunteers.

RockTrailbridge

This is a shining new light in our chandelier of trails that connect the natural wonders of the Chuckanut Mountain Range and the surrounding area.

 

For more ideas about fun things to do in Bellingham and Whatcom County, visit our home page.

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, 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.

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