Monday, December 18th, 2017
Go Coastal! Road Bike Loop Connecting Cherry Point – Birch Bay – Semiahmoo
Todd Elsworth

“Let’s go ride our bikes along the seacoast today”, my buddy Al suggested on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The bluebird skies beckoned us to get out on and road bike, even in mid-December when the mercury was only pointing to high’s in the 40’s for the day. Seeking roads with no traffic, or very little at that, we loaded up our road bikes and headed out to the coast, due west of Ferndale.

Our starting point would be Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. A short drive north from Bellingham (or south if coming down across the Canadian border), we headed west on Mountain View Road, took a right on Kickerville and a left, heading west, on Henry Road. The next left is Gulf Road that drops you down (south) to the beach at Cherry Point. If you want an address to get you there try 4601 Gulf Road, Ferndale. This is also a good spot to hand launch boats, BTW.

We were geared up and ready to roll. But first, we had to start with a selfie to document our journey and provide perspective to where we were launching from. As we smile in the shadow of the shining sun, behind us a tanker is visible off the Alcoa Intalco Aluminum plant in the background. Lummi Island and the San Juan Islands float on the surface of the hazy Salish Sea beyond the docked ship.

Looking out across the Salish Sea coastline to the west, the distant Canadian islands suggest themselves with a slight profile, contrasting against the marine haze. We were also graced by a windless day, which can be a saving grace when you are out in the elements on a road bike. Looking for the silver lining in the weather warning of an Air Stagnation Advisory, we sought to make the most of it.

We jumped on our bikes and headed north on Gulf Road, from the beach parking lot. The road comes to a gate at the intersection of Gulf and Lonseth Roads (pictured below). Fortunately, the yellow gate is intended to keep vehicular traffic out. People (and pets) are welcome now as pedestrians and cyclists. The paved roads that criss-cross the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve property are CARLESS!

We made our way on the carless backroads, paralleling Grandview Avenue  (which is on the other side of the BP refinery). As we headed west, the large green tanks of the refinery sit safely on the other side of the fence. We passed a couple folks out walking and others traveling by bike. It was nice to have the roads, relatively to ourselves, so we could chat and spin along at a nice easy pace.

The road heads straight out west towards the water. With NO CARS, we had the place to ourselves. This serenity made for getting this shot below of me (in yellow) an easy take. From this corner, you look east at the rising peak (above my head) of our resident volcano, Mount Baker. Looking west, are vistas out over the Salish Sea to the US and Canadian islands that sit on the horizon. The preserve property is owned by BP, and they are kind enough to allow people out to enjoy the wide open spaces.

As the road turns north again, it traverses the expanse of the preserve and eventually empties out at the intersection of Grandview Road and Point Whitehorn Road. You’ll find a similar yellow gate at the northern end of the property as you exit (or may choose to enter from there instead) There is minimal parking at this location. Once back on shared use road of Point Whitehorn, you drop down to the flat coastal parkland of Birch Bay State Park. We stopped to add a layer and have a bit of a snack, while other folks enjoyed the safe passage of the relatively carless road along the beachfront.

Now it was time to find the groove, if we wanted to make it out to Semiahmoo for lunch. Even though we were on sleek road bikes that can cruise right along at a nice clip, we couldn’t help but just “settle down” and soak it in as we rolled along. In the summer, Birch Bay is a hoppin’ place with locals and vacationers enjoying the access to the beach and bay. Only a handful of folks on this sunny winter day.

Birch Bay Drive hugs the coast and wraps around to connect with Birch Point Drive, heading west. The road climbs up on the plateau and is separated by the private land of homes that tucked away, but their grandiosity is evidenced by the mammoth gates and fences visible from the roadside. As we made our way north, towards Semiahmoo, my tanks were starting to run empty and we were chasing daylight. We decided it best to skip the spur, up to the spit, where we had planned on having a quick bite to eat at Packers Oyster Bar at Semiahmoo Resort on Tongue Point.

We had been to the resort and the restaurant before, when we set out for the adventure that became the story for Let’s Go Birding! by Kayak from Blaine to Semiahmoo. I guess, if we really chose to make of day of it, in the summer, we could even cross over to Blaine on the Plover Ferry– but that’s a whole other story.

Opting to turn back and close the loop, so we would make it back before dark, we took a right on Semiahmoo Parkway. The road has an adjacent paved pedestrian bike path, that I remember riding bikes with my daughter and neighbors on back in 2013 as we Started Our Adventure at Semiahmoo. The road winds up, paralleling the Arnold Palmer designed Semiahmoo Golf Course. Then, the descent begins as you head south to reconnect through Birch Bay. We took a right on Shintaffer Road and reconnected with Birch Bay Drive, completing the circle, but not quite the end of the journey.

Along Birch Bay Drive, I had to stop and stretch and check out a point of interest on my list of inquiry. I was curious where Terrell Creek empties out into Birch Bay. The creek is one of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s projects.  It has a circuitous route as the creek drains from the uplands, down towards Birch Bay park and then is rerouted through a channel that parallels the roadway. Here is the mouth of the creek as it drains into the sea.

Standing on the beach, with the mouth of the creek to my left and the setting sun in the distance, I used my battery to capture my last photo for the day: a panoramic display of the view of the beach from Birch Bay, looking out with Point Whitehorn sticking out from the left and the south tip of Birch Bay Village and Lighthouse Park on the right.

We knew that we’d be chasing the setting sun, so we took another shortcut, crossing over Terrell Creek, with a left on Jackson Road that runs south, right into the refinery’s network of roads and our route back to our starting place at Cherry Point. The sun was setting and the temperature was beginning to drop as our winter spin came to a close. The bright orange orb in the distance shone through the trees as we ended our journey.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

For more adventurous ideas see the full list of Todd’s articles. Or see our bicycling 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.