It’s a surreal time in the world, a period where we’re being told to hunker down and recreate only in wide-open spaces where our contact with other people will be socially distant and as safe as possible. As the weather glides from spring to summer the temptation to be in Whatcom County’s great outdoors is almost irresistible, particularly when the sun peeks out from the clouds.
Wondering where to go? Bellingham Parks and Recreation is encouraging users to get outdoors safely in their own neighborhood and stay close to home. The best resource for discovering local parks near you is the Whatcom Park Finder. Or you can visit our hiking page or the inside scoop on hiking and exploring.
It’s important to always be prepared with a map and your 10 Essentials including water, rain gear and sunscreen. During these times we do suggest going a little further than just 10. In addition to your gear, we recommend you bring: wipes, hand sanitizer, and a face mask. Check the Whatcom County Health Department website for updated guidance, including information on wearing masks in public.
With a long stretch of isolated beach, Semiahmoo Spit is a perfect place to spend a few hours and stretch your legs. Head to the spit at low tide and walk the tidal flats in search of pansy shells, the skeletons of the many sea urchins that congregate on this shore. Dried pansy shells make a fun craft project on a rainy day, and gently handled (they’re fairly fragile), they can easily make it home, endure a bleach bath and dry out for your next moment of creativity. (Visit Pinterest for some great craft ideas.)
You don’t need to be a seasoned ornithologist to appreciate the birdlife on the spit. Bring a notebook and tally the diversity of birds you’ll spot near the shore. A prime birdwatching location listed as one of the 15 hotspots in the county by the North Cascades Audubon Society, the spit is visited by eagles, loons, sea ducks, dabbling and diving ducks, grebes, loons, gulls and many other varieties of birds this time of year. Chances are you won’t even need binoculars to see them!
The spit is also a perfect locale for a long beach walk. Bring some solid sneakers as the rocky shores can be hard on the feet and ankles, and feel the wind in your hair as you watch the whitecaps on the water.
Birch Bay Beaches
The saltwater shoreline of Birch Bay is another good option for a peaceful beach walk, particularly at low tide, when the tidal flats are exposed for miles. Boasting panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and Canadian Gulf Islands on a clear day, the beach extends for miles. That means intrepid walkers prepared to brave the rocky shore can pick their way along the beach for hours, stopping along the way to search for purple starfish beneath the large boulders and Dungeness crabs in the shallows. Keep an eye out for the bald eagles and ospreys that frequent the area, as well as the large concentrations of scoters, loons, gulls, murres and other species that come to feed on herring roe.
If you’re keen on a long, isolated walk and prefer not to retrace your steps home, we recommend leaving one vehicle in the parking lot of the Point of Whitehorn Marine Reserve and driving a second vehicle to Birch Bay State Park to begin your walk.
Approximately three miles southwest of your starting point you can leave the beach and head up a ¾-mile switchback trail through the marine reserve’s bluff and forest to the parking lot on Blaine’s Koehn road. Given the rocky terrain on the beach, the potential for wind and the many sightseeing stops you’ll make along the way, there’s a good chance you’ll be grateful to drive home rather than literally retracing your steps to your point of origin!
Want the inside scoop on Bellingham and Whatcom County?
- Crowd-free Hikes, Bikes & Trails in Whatcom County
- Bellinghamopoly: You Don’t Have To Leave Home To Explore
- Restaurants Currently Open with In-Person Dining in Bellingham and Whatcom County
- Retail Stores and Shops Still Open in Bellingham and Whatcom County
- Stroll Through the Outdoor Art of Whatcom County