Monday, July 2nd, 2018
Hiking Samish Crest Trail in Bellingham
Todd Elsworth

The hidden gem of the Samish Crest Trail is a piece of the puzzle that the Bellingham Greenways levy helps accomplish – connecting Bellingham neighborhoods with trails and parks. The trail brings you up to a lookout over the city and bay. It also continues from Racine Street through to Lake Padden for the adventurous in spirit!

According to the city: “This trail project is situated in the 113 ­acre Samish Hill Open Space adjacent to the Puget and Samish Neighborhoods. Future improvements will extend the trail south to Lake Padden Park with connecting trails to adjacent neighborhoods. The trail is 4′ wide with 1′ shoulders and surfaced with crushed limestone. Other improvements included a pet waste station, new wayfinding and native growth protection signage, drainage, wetland buffer enhancement planting and monitoring.” The signs along the trail reflect these improvements in place.

You’ll enjoy the sense of humor here in Bellingham as seen on the signs, reminding you “It’s your ‘Doody’ to pick up after your doggie.”

The Native Plant growth areas are also protected with signage and fencing to help the natives survive and thrive. Please don’t go off trail, following unsanctioned footpaths.

I took my morning walk in late June and found out that it’s the perfect time to be on the trail to eat the native Salmonberries, pictured below.

Here’s a close up view of the Salmonberry. No, they don’t taste like salmon.

They do look a lot like blackberries, but are orange or red in color. Be careful before you go outside, eating things off of bushes, if you’re not familiar. Get a copy (and carry it everywhere) of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast to confirm what you’re ingesting.

The gravel path gracefully ascends into the forest. The transition from gravel to dirt gives the advance warning that the trail is about to get rooty and hilly and much thicker in the woods.

The trail is surrounded by salmonberries and vine maples, with alders standing tall in the background.

Once you’ve got yourself deeper in the trail, you’ll come to a stand of relatively young cedar trees. Earlier in the week I went for a guided walk with Carolyn Watson in Cordata Park and learned that cedar trees give off positive chemicals as they “breathe”. Learn more at ForestReset.com.

This is a reflection of science intersecting across recreation, nature and health. “Numerous studies in the U.S. and around the world are exploring the health benefits of spending time outside in nature, green spaces, and, specifically, forests. Recognizing those benefits, in 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it: shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health” Department of Environmental Conservation.

Inside the cedar stand, is the leftovers of a grand stump that gives a sense of what used to be here and the potential of what this young stand can mature to become.

Continuing the climb up the trail, next you’ll come to a stand of firs that sit on the edge of the clearcut that affords spectacular views out over Bellingham and the bay. I made my way through the edge of trees to get the big views.

The trees left standing proud on the open space below spring straight up from the forested hillside, breaking up the view below into two pieces.

Samish Crest Trail offers sweeping views on the left (south side) of Lummi and Portage Islands sitting in Bellingham Bay, Orcas Island in the distance and Fairhaven in the foreground below.

Behind and to the right of the stand of trees is Sehome Hill Arboretum and the north side of Bellingham below. On a clear day, you can see the border peaks of Canada in the distance. I can only imagine how spectacular the views are when the skies are blue above.

It was a short jaunt to get another perspective of our fair city and coastline inside our city limits.

Directions

To get to Samish Crest Trail and Open Space, use this address: 600 Racine Street, Bellingham

For old school navigators:
Go East out Lakeway Drive, right on Puget and climb to the end of the road, where it turns left into Consolidation and then right on Racine Street. Drive to the end of the road and park along the side of the street. You’ll see the trailhead on the left hand side.

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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.