Monday, December 8th, 2014
Mountain Biking Bellingham’s Backyard – Galbraith Mountain
Todd Elsworth

Locals (aka ‘Hamsters- to the chagrin of some) have it pretty sweet when it comes to accessible, world-class mountain biking. Yes, both easily accessible and featuring world-class terrain with professionally managed trails- all in the literal backyard of many Bellingham residents is Galbraith Mountain.


The 50-miles of singletrack winds through over 3,000 acres overlooking the city and Bellingham Bay to the west; the Canadian border peaks to the north and foothills and peaks of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters to the east- if you make it to the summit and find your way to the lookout.

I’m not keeping any secrets here, trust me. The word is out!

In 2014, Singletracks recognized Galbraith Mountain as one of the Top Mountain Bike Trails in the USA. They have been “collecting mountain bikers‚Äô reviews of trails all around the world for more than a decade now. We crunched the data from tens of thousands of trail reviews to find the top mountain bike trails in the USA by state.”

Here are the complete Singletrack results: click for a larger, interactive map.

Sure, those are some cool maps, but what does it really look like? Well, my buddy and I took a chilly winter’s day to capture a taste of the experience. We chose to start from the “Padden side”- referring to the lake and nearby parking lot on S. Samish Way, just past the park. Strategically placed around the mountain are First Aid checkpoints with additional information within the kiosks.


For those that choose the Padden side, most just get ‘er done and climb the Tower Road. It’s worth the climb. Once to the summit, if it’s clear you’ll see the grandiose peaks in the distance. Our day was not quite clear and a haze hung in the distance, but you can still make out the peaks beyond the foothills.


The improvements in signage are helpful for non-mountain bikers in particular places. There are trails that “contain man-made Technical Terrain Features including log rides, ladders, drops, jumps, steep sections and sharp corners” as the signs read. For expert mountain bikers this just reads FUN AHEAD! For others (Hikers and Horsemen) please heed this warning- because people are literally flying down these designated, well-marked sections.


There are trails for all abilities. Buy a Galbraith Map at one of the local bike or outdoor stores and do your research before you head out and up the mountain. All the trails are well maintained and can be ridden year-round. On the freezing day when we were descending Naughty Nellie, the frozen ground crunched beneath our tires and surprisingly enough provided solid traction.


Below is a close-up view of the surface hoar ice that was transformed from a puddle, visible in the lower left-hand corner in the photo above. The columns of ice crinkle beneath your tires as you glide through.


Logging Alerts are posted at the trailheads so you know where the current harvesting is taking place. As the sign reads, “Please respect the closure for your safety and for their crew.” For updates, check the WMBC Newsfeed.


The trail names are reflectively as creative as the trail builders that design these cool routes through the woods. Some names even give a sense of what you’re about to get into, while others create a sense of wonderment- Bunny Trails, Family Fun Center, Three Little Pigs, Whoopsie Woodle, Grasshopper, Wonderland, Evolution, Scorpion, Intestine, Cheech & Chongs, Double Black Diamond, Rock-n-Roll, Cedar Dust and even more! As the work of the WMBC continues to improve the signage to the trails you can track where you’re headed.

This is the only “U Line” I recommend!


For those of you riding with your canine companions, don’t miss ATOMIC DOG!


The work that WMBC has accomplished is amazing and deserves applause. For over 30 years of history stewarding the mountain to keep it open and growing- working with private landowners to allow FREE trail access. (There is a lot of costs involved in keeping the mountain open. If you love riding Galbraith trails please donate to the WMBC).

Yes, WMBC also knows how to have fun. Get these WMBC Events  on your calendar:

Shoot the Trails – Annual Photo & Video Contest

Enduro of Subdued Excitement -4 stages with approximately 4,000 feet of descending and overall times should be in the 25-35 minute range.  The overall course is about 20 miles long with lots of pedaling and climbing between stages. Riders should plan for 4 to 6 hours of saddle time.

Full Disclosure: I admire the hard work that the WMBC staff, the board of directors and volunteers are doing for our community and our visitors.


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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

1 Comment »

  1. Right on on all accounts. Galbraith is quite simply the best thing about Bellingham. 50 + miles of sweet single track 10 minutes from downtown. Doesn’t get much better than that.

    Comment by Mike Brodsky — December 10, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

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