When I imagine the quintessential summer camping trip what I’m imagining is Silver Lake Park.
Silver Lake Park is owned by Whatcom County and sits near the base of Mount Baker. Just 40 minutes from Bellingham, the park’s namesake lake is nestled in between the foothills and is picture-perfect pretty.
Being so close to town, Silver Lake Park makes a great day-trip destination, but there’s enough to see and do that you may want to consider camping for a night or two.
The park has three individual campgrounds, one for tent camping (Cedar), one for RVs and tents (Maple Creek) and a third (Red Mountain) with RV pads plus two horse stables. The Red Mountain area of the park connects to horse trails, making it a popular getaway when families want to include their equestrian friends. A group campsite is also available.
The park also offers six lakefront cabins for rent. The cabins sleep four to six, and have a variety of amenities, including and stove and refrigerator – and a deck overlooking the lake. These charming 1940’s-era cabins are a popular draw, so it’s best to reserve your stay well in advance.
We camped in the Cedar campground, tucked in among the Douglas firs. Each campsite has a metal fire ring for campfires and a flat pad for pitching your tent, which is a welcome amenity if you’re used to carving out a spot for your tent between roots and rocks. It certainly made tent set up easier!
Once we had the tents up, it was time to hit the lake. It’s an easy walk or a quick drive (if you’re schlepping your picnic gear) to the swimming area near the park’s Day Lodge. With plenty of picnic tables and barbecue grills, plus close proximity to the playground for the littles, you can definitely hang out here for the whole afternoon.
Along with swimming you can fish – the lake is stocked with trout – or boat on the lake. (There is a 10-horsepower limit, so no power boating.) The Day Lodge offers rentals of paddle boats, row boats, canoes and paddle boards.
The lodge also offers snacks, ice and firewood – and coffee. If you need something outside the lodge’s 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. hours, Maple Falls is only a 10-minute drive away.
And if the day turns cold and cloudy, the lodge is a great place to hang out and play board games by the fireplace.
Wildlife is abundant in the park, in ways I didn’t expect. On an early morning walk, I was surprised by a wood duck popping up out of the water from nowhere. (These ducks are known to submerge themselves for long periods.) On the same walk I thought I heard a frog, but didn’t trust my ears, then later my daughter spotted a small frog by the water’s edge.
And then, there was this guy.
A banana slug!
I’ve lived in Washington nearly my entire life, and used to see these slugs as a kid on a fairly regular basis. That hasn’t been the case in recent years, so it was a treat to see this fine specimen.
Our trip to Silver Lake was far too short to see and do everything. We’re already talking about a return trip.
Ready to plan your own trip to Silver Lake Park? Get the details from Whactom County Parks and Recreation.
A note on swimmer’s itch: The lake has been known to harbor the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch, but Whatcom County has been taking measures to keep the lake healthy, and it’s working. Still, it’s not a bad idea to shower off after a day at the lake. The park offers coin-op showers, so don’t forget your quarters!