Fall is my favorite time of year for walking in Whatcom County. Cooler temperatures, warmer colors, and fewer crowds make for ideal wandering conditions. As high-country hikes succumb to snow, I no longer feel drawn to grueling 12-mile day hikes in the North Cascades. During autumn, I often find myself walking gentle trails in search of fall foliage.
Below are a few of my favorite fall walks in Bellingham and Whatcom County. All of these trails are family-friendly, and many can be extended for those seeking a workout. Don’t forget your camera, rain jacket, and waterproof footwear on these potentially wet, yet seasonally stunning trails. Happy hiking!
Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail
Running for 3 miles along Lake Whatcom’s 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 hike for all ages. Walk along a soft path of orange and yellow maple leaves in the fall on this scenic lakeside stroll.
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. Return the way you came.
See Washington Trails Association for driving directions and additional trail information.
Go Further: Chanterelle Trail
If you’re looking for a longer hike from Lake Whatcom Park, try the Chanterelle Trail. Originally built as a 2.4-mile (one way) trail to an overlook above the lake, this trail was extended during the summer of 2019 for an additional 2.6 miles. You can now hike up to 10 miles (round-trip) on the Chanterelle Trail.
Whatcom Falls Park
Bellingham’s favorite waterfall is perhaps best viewed in the fall. As rain returns to the region, the falls swell beneath a canopy of colorful leaves. Walk along several miles of forested trails throughout the park, or simply stop by to see the falls from a 1939-built Stone Bridge — located just a few hundred paces from the parking lot. For more information see: Exploring the Hidden Treasures in Whatcom Falls Park
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.
Go Further: Bagley Lakes
Continue driving 0.5 miles beyond Picture Lake on Mount Baker Highway to reach Heather Meadows and the trailhead for Bagley Lakes. Situated in a cirque beneath towering Table Mountain, these sparkling alpine lakes can be explored via an easy 2-mile loop trail. Or you can simply take the views in from the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. Whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to seasonal fall colors galore.
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 — another hotspot for Mother Nature’s fall show. For access, park at Fairhaven Park to begin near town. Or, drive south on Chuckanut Drive from Fairhaven to access the trail from its Arroyo Park and North Chuckanut Mountain trailheads.
Go Further: Chuckanut Trails
Several hiking trails spur off of the Interurban Trail, reaching deep into the Chuckanut Mountains. At the north end (near Arroyo Park), consider visiting Chuckanut Falls after a good rain. From here you can continue along the Hemlock Trail to Raptor Ridge and Pine and Cedar Lakes for a more challenging hike. Further south in Larrabee State Park, the Interurban Trail intersects with the popular Fragrance Lake Trail — another favorite fall hike.
Baker Lake Trail
Accessed via North Cascades Highway (State Route 20), 9-mile long Baker Lake is a buzzing recreational hub during summertime. Come fall, it chills out (literally) and brightens with the colors of the season. Take an easy 2-mile (one-way) hike along South Baker Lake Trail to Anderson Point for views across the lake to Mount Baker. Or continue to Maple Grove for an 8-mile roundtrip hike. Watch for vibrant mushrooms along the leaf-lined path. You can even backpack in for year-round camping at either destination. In total, the Baker Lake Trail runs 14 miles (one way) along the lakeshore.
For more fall foliage walks and hikes in Whatcom County, visit the Washington Trails Association Hike Finder Map. Select “Fall Foliage” under Trail Features, and zoom in on Whatcom County for dozens of ideas. Also check out our blog: Favorite 5 Fall Hikes in Whatcom County