Tuesday, March 27th, 2018
Mountain Biking Bellingham’s Galbraith with Kids
Todd Elsworth

Mountain biking has taken over Bellingham! You and your kids can too. It’s not just the adults out having fun riding mountain bikes these days.

Kids of all ages enjoy the bounty of manicured trails that wind through our fair city. Whether you are a Bellinghamster, or just in town for a couple days – get out and taste of what is Washington State’s top mountain bike destination. It’s a good idea to get out and check it out ahead of time – so you know what you’re getting your kids into.

Andrew Olive on a rock drop with a Burley trailer in tow. (NOTE: This was a staged photo shoot for Shoot the Trails photo contest with WMBC. There was no child in the trailer.)

Maps of Galbraith

Beyond our intricate Greenway trail system, we are also blessed with the famed Galbraith Mountain – aka “Galby.” Here’s a slice of one local map. You can purchase the Bellingham Parks map at these local stores: Village Books, Yeager’s, Bay to Baker Trading Co., Community Food Coop, Kona Bike Shop, Fanatik, LFS, Fairhaven Runners and BBay Running or online at Square One Maps.com.

The Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition also has two options for maps of Galbraith. You can purchase a waterproof paper map at Galbraith Printed Map. You can also download their interactive PDF map that works with your phone GPS to show you exactly where you are on the map, purchase the map at Galbraith PDF Map. A portion of the map sales goes directly to the WMBC to help maintain and build new trails on Galbraith.

It’s important to note that the mountain is currently owned by a private landowner so we are guests on the mountain. The WMBC has over 30 years of history stewarding the mountain to keep it open and growing while working with various landowners. Access to the mountain is never guaranteed but current and past landowners have been favorable to working with the WMBC to allow trail access. Basically, you and your family must be very careful while riding on the mountain and ride at your own risk.

Galbraith trails for kids

Galbraith Mountain is a world-class mountain destination located within riding distance of downtown Bellingham. Over 50 miles of singletrack that winds through over 3,000 acres overlooking the city and Bellingham Bay, according to Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (WMBC.) WMBC is the local steward that builds and maintains the trails of Galbraith Mountain, which also has a strong youth involvement in the sport of mountain biking through mentorship.

“For getting kids biking on Galbraith, my go-to route is the Pipeline Road for about a half mile and you can either turn left on Bunny Trails or right on Br’er Rabbit,” said WMBC Trail Director Eric Brown. “Bunny Trails will take you into several loops including Kaya, Ursa Major and Little Dipper. The end of this route is on New Issues, where you take a right on the road back to the car.”

Br’er Rabbit will give you a three-loop combination that can be done with Cowbell, Mole Trap, and Lost Giants.  If your kids are older or more experienced riders, a good variation on that loop is to turn onto Lone Wolf.  Go across the bridge and take the slight uphill until you hit the road.  From there, go right on the road and then you’ll take a right and descend down Dogpatch to Last Call and then back to the car.

Flying through the mud on Lost Giants is justified cause for a grimace on Liv’s tense face!

I got my daughter’s gaggle of giggling girlfriends together for our inaugural ride of the spring. They are in 4th grade and have been riding up here for the past two years. This is the big step for beginner bikers. And a true feather in the cap (or helmet) is displayed, for those who experience the thrills of the hills.

How to access Galbraith

We access the Galbraith Mountain bike trails from the south entrance off of Samish Way, from a parking lot across the street from Galbraith Lane road. The estimated address is 5090 S. Samish Way if you want a reference point. You can park here or at the Lake Padden parking area near the dog park.

You can access the trail from riding up to Galbraith Lane, then onto the Pipeline Road.

Once we got past the yellow entrance gate and had our first few minutes of climbing behind us, we paused for a ritual team photo.

Local dad and mountain bike coach, Joel Paine, is out leading a group of advanced kids up the hill on Pony Express.

Our trip to Galbraith

We weren’t the only group of kids on the mountain on a sunny spring afternoon, there were also other groups from March Northwest out too.

Dad, volunteer and mountain biker, Tyler Byrnes, instructs a group of beginners on Galbraith trails.

While we were up there, Tyler Byrnes of March Northwest was leading a group of beginner rides through the trails. March Northwest helps beginner, intermediate, expert, and professional riders boost their skills, build confidence, and progress their riding.

Before I knew it, the girls were out in front of me on the Pipeline Road. This is familiar territory to these young veterans, I just hoped they’d wait for me at the trailhead.

It’s no secret that the key to success for motivating young mountain bikers is…Skittles. I think that’s why they stopped and waited at the entrance to the trail. At the entrances to the different trails up here are signs present to help identify where you are and where you’re headed.

Dropping in one at a time, to give each other space, they soared down the open trails that wind and curve across the treeless landscape.

Big Ella rocks the descent with her pink basket.

As good as the riding was, we were distracted by the sounds of croaking frogs in the adjacent swamps. We had to take a break from the bikes to see if we could find any hanging out in the banks. We poked up Mole Trap to see what we could find. All went quiet upon our arrival.

Back at it, we charged the muddy puddles with full force.

Ride on! Back at it, the girls comfortably cross the bridges that used to intimidate them.  Now, they just ride on through…

Next stop, Dog Patch.

Thumbs-up and smiles suggest that we’re doing ok. They knew what they were getting into next. It’s a step up from what we just came down. This is another level, but they’ve all been here before. Go, team!

The bridge  used to be a feature that we would stop and walk over but now, with the experience, we roll over and continue on our way.

Descending into the relative darkness of the trees, as we exit the old clear-cut expanse, we cross the bridge over Galbraith Creek.

We knew what we were in for, climbing up Dog Patch. While this is not recommended for everybody, it gets you from one point to the next and also confirms that it’s ok to get off and walk your bike.

This was our first ride of the season, so we didn’t complete our usual longer loop. We continued the climb up Pony Express to enjoy the descent of the last section of The Three Pigs, known simply as Brick. Once again, we ran into another March Northwest group at the intersection of the Tower Road and Road 2200 where many trails criss-cross the hillside.

Check out these other pages about mountain biking around Bellingham

On Facebook and Instagram, tag us in your photos while you’re on the trail with #BasecampBellingham!

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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.