In my third installment of Hikes for Little Legs, I focus on treks in and around the Southside of Bellingham – which for non-locals centers on the Fairhaven, South Hill and Edgemoor neighborhoods south of downtown.
This collection of hikes is meant for younger kids in that nothing is too hilly or too long. The longest in the bunch is about 2.6 miles. And they’re accessible year round.
Curious to find out more? Let’s get started.
Connelly Creek Trail
This urban trail spans Sehome High School to Donovan Avenue, about a mile one way. Although you’re never far from neighborhood homes, the trail often feels as though you aren’t in the middle of town.
We started our walk on the Sehome end of the trail, which heads down into a wooded area with tall cedars and a clear forest floor that begged the kids to run through it, only to pop out a short distance later to the bright sky and open fields surrounding Joe’s Garden on Taylor Avenue.
Then, it’s back through the trees until the trail skirts an open field, offering another opportunity to run.
Continuing on the trail, you’ll see the Happy Valley Community Garden to your left, then the trail again plunges under the cover of trees and meanders near it’s namesake, Connelly Creek. According to the City of Bellingham’s Trail Guide, the Sitka spruce trees you see here are some of the largest in the city.
We stop to play on a large fallen tree, soft with decay, before our final leg of the trail that brings us to 30th and Donovan.
Here we turned around to head back down the trail, but you could easily make this a loop walk, heading east on Donovan for about a block then turning left up 32nd Street; turning left again at Taylor Avenue to catch the trail near Joe’s Garden. And, if you’re walking by Joe’s during the summer months, it’s a great treat to stop and get some summer fruit to snack on after you walk.
This is one of my favorite little hikes because it’s a loop (2.6 miles) and because it offers some hills to climb – good exercise for me and a sure bet to get the kids to sleep well – but nothing too challenging.
And there’s just something special about this place: You feel it as you observe the morning mist on the lake or the late afternoon sunlight casting a golden glow on giant cedars.
Lake Padden Park is many things to many people. Paddlers come to get out on the water, runners and hikers love to explore the trails beyond the main loop, and shutterbugs come to practice their craft. The adjacent golf course is even noted as one of the best municipal courses around.
Practically speaking, the Park has two restroom facilities and a playground, which are important amenities when you’re with kids.
Padden has two parking areas from which to start your adventure, the East Entrance, just east of Governor Road, is a good bet because this puts you close to the aforementioned playground. This strategy is a good “carrot” for getting kids to walk around the lake, having the playground to look forward to when they finish.
From the playground, turn right and head counterclockwise around the lake to start on the flat, more open part of the trail. This section will afford some opportunities to dip little toes in the water, especially near the West parking lot that’s considered the swimming beach. You’ll also see plenty of people at the docks or on the shore with their fishing poles.
Or turn left from the playground and get the uphill climb out of the way while the kids have more energy, as you head into the cool, wooded section of the trail. You may encounter a fine specimen of a banana slug here or a horse and rider on the horse trails that are accessible from the west end of the park.
Fairhaven Park to Post Point Estuary
I love the changing terrain on this approximately mile-out and mile-back hike. You’ll find gentle hills and flat stretches under your feet, and a changing canopy of alders, evergreens and blue sky above.
We typically start at Fairhaven Park. As with Lake Padden Park, it gives us easy access to restrooms and the promise of playground time following our walk. From the playground, take the trail headed north and out of the park to connect with the Padden Creek trail that winds its way down to the waterfront. (The park also has about a half-mile of trails that are fun to explore with the littles.)
Along the trail, look close for historical markers – there aren’t many, but they add a fun element of discovery and history for the kids.
At the mid-point of this walk you can depart from the trail at 12th or 10th Street and head into the heart of Fairhaven for a trip to Sirena Gelato or Rocket Donuts, or any number of other tempting treats. Then you can choose to head back toward your starting point if little legs are getting tired.
Continuing on, you’ll emerge from the trees at 4th Street to a sunny open area popular with dog owners. You’ll also see the Post Point water treatment plant, which you’ll skirt around on your way to the estuary. Once you reach this protected area, you’ll note that you don’t have access to the water, but you do have a stellar view.
If your group isn’t pooped out, you can loop around the water treatment plant, cross Harris Avenue and head down to Marine Park, only another couple of blocks away, or head back up the (gentle) hill toward Fairhaven and back to the park.
Check out the City of Bellingham’s Trail Guide for more information, and maps, on these trails.