On the north end of Lake Whatcom (near Bellingham), you’ll find Lake Whatcom Park’s most popular trail- the Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail. It’s an easy trail that extends along the shore for 3.1 miles. It is great for multi-generational outings (grandparents and kids) and on-leash dogs.
“This beautiful trail sits between Stewart Mountain and Lake Whatcom. The trail begins with a gradual slope through a lush forest to the interpretive kiosk at the Lakeshore. The trail then follows the railroad grade of the Bellingham & Eastern Railway along the shores of Lake Whatcom. Enjoy views of Lake Whatcom and surrounding hills plus waterfalls and giant old Douglas Fir trees.” – Whatcom County.
At the confluence of two trails is the main trail entrance. Under the solid structure are maps and photographs of the area that tell the story of the man the trail is named after- Ken Hertz. Hertz served our community as Director of Whatcom County Parks & Recreation (1965 to 1975); Mayor of Bellingham (1976-1983); and Vice Chairman of Trillium Corporation (1984-1994). This trail is a tribute to his “life-long commitment to parks and recreation in Whatcom County.”
The interpretive signs start with the history of the area, “The trail…was once part of the Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad (BB&E), built in 1902. Known as the “Little Giant”, this railroad was intended to serve the emerging forestry and mining interests, including the Blue Canyon Mine just south of here. The BB&E connected with tracks owned by the Fairhaven & Northwest Street Railway with stations located at Silver Beach and in Fairhaven. The BB&E also extended lines south to Wickersham where it connected to the Northern Pacific Railroad main line from Seattle.” The historical marker highlights the involvement of Hertz in securing the property and laying the groundwork for a right-of-way to the County in the future.
Two big maps tell great stories. The Bathymetric Map & Profile of Lake Whatcom shows details on the depths and elevations (ie-Lake Whatcom Surface Elevation = 311 ft.). An Historical Map features descriptions of pictures provided by Whatcom Museum of History & Art featuring 20 locations around the lake. It tells the story of the placenames of White City, Geneva, Stawberry Point, Revillle Island, Blue Canyon, and Park. The long gone places of Mason’s Landing, Brannian dock, Silver Beach Amusement Park and Hotel, Nicholas Jern’s Gilt Edge Shingle Co. and the Moore-Rice logging camp.
The trail hugs the shore and beach access is best at the trailhead. Once you’re on the path, stay on the path, getting down to the shore is tough along most of the trail. There are benches along the way to stop and take a breath and soak it all in. The stillness of the day helped for reflection, not only on the water, but to take a minute to admire the dusting of snow in the nearby foothills.
Author admission: I stopped this guy on the trail and asked him if he’d be willing to “sit and look contemplatively across the lake” Thanks Random Dude! Pictures of benches look better with people on them.
There’s something about water that helps us lose ourselves in thought when we just sit. Whether it’s looking out across a calm expanse or next to it as it cascades past us on the storied slope it follows- water moves us while we sit idly by.
At mile one the trail crosses a creek with a magnificent display of water flowing down from Stuart Mountain above. The creek passes under a covered bridge as the trail extends to it’s dead end mandatory turn-around another couple miles down the lake-shore.
Many people choose this as their turnaround spot for a 2 mile round trip jaunt. It’s a good break point with a bench for more reflection. The views toward the south end of the lake offer a pleasant perspective on the vacation-land side.
I chose to turn around here and hoof it back to the trailhead. This was just a warmup. I was about to venture up Stewart Mountain and it was already well into the day- but that’s another story!
Other trail information:
Check out what Local Hikes has to say about Hertz Trail.